Hearing Aids 101
Are Hearing Aids Waterproof?
Before giving an answer to this question, it’s important to first clarify the difference between waterproof and water-resistant. While many people use these interchangeably, the reality is they mean very different things. Accidentally mistaking –resistant for –proof could mean a visit to the audiologist much sooner than anticipated.
So how do these two terms differ, and what does this mean for your hearing recovery? To put it simply, waterproof hearing aids could be submerged in water without damaging the electronics, while water-resistant aids cannot. Read on for more details on how scientists and designers have worked to make hearing aids as sturdy as possible without compromising their delicate electronics.
Water-resistant hearing aids
Water-resistant or water-repellant refers to an item made to create a hindrance against penetration by water. Note that this is not a guarantee that water will not eventually seep in. With regards to hearing aids, this means that they have some sort of protective coating or sealant that protects them against casual contact with moisture, at least for short amounts of time. However, it does not mean that their delicate inner workings won’t eventually be damaged by moisture due to long-term exposure to humidity or dampness without being dried out regularly with a dehumidifier.
Consider a pair of water-resistant hearing aids if you live in a humid region, such as many southern states in the U.S. and areas that are close to the ocean. You should also seek this protection if you have very oily skin or produce excessive earwax. Water-resistant hearing aids will also survive if you are caught in the rain, so long as you don’t stay in a downpour long enough for them to get soaked. However, they are not safe to submerge, which means no swimming or showering with your water-resistant hearing aids.
Waterproof hearing aids
Accidents happen—almost everybody knows someone who has spilled coffee on their keyboard at work or jumped into a pool with their cellphone. Others would like to hear clearly while in a swimming pool.
Unfortunately, while there was a truly waterproof hearing aid option available from Siemens for several years, it is now off the market. As of this writing, no other manufacturer has picked up the gauntlet, so there aren’t any truly waterproof hearing aids available. Perhaps there will be again if demand is ever high enough. In the meantime, the best you can do is seek highly water-resistant hearing aids (rated IP68).
How to avoid water damage
Moisture exposure is still one of the most common—and avoidable—reasons for hearing aids malfunctioning earlier than expected. Given the amazing technology that is built into every pair of these medical devices, it seems ironic that they could be permanently damaged by nothing more than a dip in water. While all of our electronic devices would be waterproof in an ideal world, the truth is hearing aids must be kept as dry as possible to work at optimal levels. With these easy steps, you can prevent water from damaging your hearing aids and save yourself from having to purchase a new pair sooner than is necessary.
Know the protection rating for your hearing aids
Durability is a major concern in the tech world. For this reason, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has been established to provide a dual ranking system of devices based on how well they protect against water, dust, and other materials that can damage electronic equipment. This is known as the International Protection (IP) Code, and it assigns a higher number to devices that offer greater protection against intrusions. The scale for dust resistance runs from 0 (no protection) to 6 (dust tight), while the scale for water resistance runs from 0 to 9. For example, a device that protects against most dust invasion but only protects against splashing water would receive a 5 for particle protection and a 4 for liquid protection, bringing the total rating to an IP54.
These codes are often available online through many hearing aid manufacturer websites, but be sure to speak with a medical professional to determine the resistance and durability of your new hearing aids to keep them running as long as possible, no matter your lifestyle.
Air out your device when possible
Leaving the battery doors open on your hearing aids while you sleep, shower, or swim can increase airflow and allow moisture trapped inside the casing to dry out when they are not being used. This breath of fresh air can also keep your battery from needing a replacement quite as often.
Invest in a dehumidifier
Keeping your hearing aids safe from moisture exposure is as simple as purchasing a dehumidifier to store them in when not in use. These containers are recommended by hearing care professionals for overnight use and some are electric. The fan installed in an electric dehumidifier can quickly air out any water inside the hearing aid, while the desiccant or gel in the non-electric model can absorb it.
Use a protective sleeve
If you know that you will need your hearing aids in a situation where exposure to moisture is likely, a pair of sweat covers or sweatbands can be especially effective. These cloth covers keep any internal circuitry from being damaged by invasive materials and, just like your hearing aids, are designed to be discreet.
Clean your hearing aids
A microfiber cloth should be used every night to rid your hearing aids of any earwax, dust, and moisture they may have accumulated during the day. In addition, washing your hands before handling your hearing aids can prevent excess oil from contaminating the device. These simple procedures could save your hearing aids—and your wallet—from unnecessary damage.
Get advice from a hearing care professional now
If you are not sure whether water-resistant or waterproof hearing aids are right for you, a hearing care professional can help. After you contact a hearing care professional, they will ask you about your lifestyle—how active you are, what kinds of sports or recreational activities you enjoy—and then offer purchasing guidance based on your stated preferences.