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The Real Difference Between “Waterproof”and “Water-Resistant” Hearing Aids
Hearing aids, like most electronic devices, are sensitive to moisture. Water, sweat, and other liquids can cause corrosion, circuit problems, and distortion in the sound quality if they get into the hearing aid casing. This can be a major concern for people who live in humid climates, spend a lot of time around water, or simply have healthy perspiration.
No one wants to lose their investment in hearing aids over a few drops of water. That’s why the hearing aid industry has worked throughout the years to continually improve the water resistance of their hearing aids. However, it’s up to you, the hearing aid user, to know the difference between the terms the industry uses. When you understand what “waterproof” and “water resistant” actually mean, you can get the hearing aids that will fit your needs and the understand the measures you can take to protect your hearing aids on your own.
The Latest Water-resistant Technology
Waterproof and water-resistant hearing aids have been around for some time, but the technology used to help protect your aids against moisture today is more effective than ever.
Hearing aid manufacturers have made many changes in the design of hearing aid casings over the last 10 years to include protective barriers between compartments that limit the amount of water—and other debris—that can get into the sensitive areas of your hearing aid. For example, many of the most important parts of your hearing aid today are treated with a special water- and oil-resistant nano-coating that protects them from moisture.
Know the Protection Rating
The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is a worldwide governing body that sets ratings for consumer products based on their protection against dust, water, and other intrusive elements. The rating they set is called an IP Code (or International Protection Marking). You can use the IP Code to determine how water- and dust-proof a consumer product is, including hearing aids.
The code is a little complicated (you can read more about it here), but essentially the higher the numbers in the code (0-9), the better protection the hearing aid provides against dust and moisture. For example, major hearing aid manufacturer ReSound tests all its hearing aids against an IP57 rating, where 5 indicates the dust protection and 7 indicates the water protection.
The IP57 rating means ReSound hearing aids are:
- 5: Dust protected: Dust is not entirely prevented from entering the product, but the amount of dust that can enter is so small that it should not interfere with the operation of the hearing aid electronics.
- 7: Water protected: Can be submerged in up to 1m of water for up to 30 minutes and still function normally.
Although it’s not recommended that you recreate these tests yourself, you can rest assured that an IP57 rating means, if you accidentally drop them in the sink or jump in the shower without realizing they are still on, they will probably be just fine.
Many major hearing aid manufacturers publish their hearing aid IP Codes on their website or in their product specifications. If you have questions about a specific hearing aid IP Code rating, talk to your provider. They should be able to guide you toward hearing aids that have high water and dust protection ratings.
Waterproof vs. Water Resistant: What’s the Difference?
It is important to remember that waterproof and water-resistant hearing aids are not the same thing. A waterproof hearing aid has a single-piece casing and uses specialty waterproof membranes between compartments and around sensitive components. A waterproof device is rated to withstand continuous submersion in water (like the example in the previous section).
However, many hearing aids are not waterproof, they are water-resistant (some manufacturers may also use terms like “shower resistant” or “moisture resistant). Water resistant means the hearing aids will keep out moisture—for the most part—but the aids will probably not stand up to continuous submersion in water and still function well.
Tips for Keeping Water Out of Your Hearing Aids
Whether you have water-resistant or waterproof aids, it’s always a good idea to prevent as much damage to your hearing aids as possible. Here are some tips to help you keep your hearing aids safe from dust and moisture and functioning well.
Open the battery doors when not in use
This may sound counter intuitive—won’t opening up the battery door let moisture in?—but opening the battery door when not in use allows air to flow freely through the device and dry up any moisture that may have been trapped inside the casing when you were wearing them. Opening your battery door when not in use also has the added benefit of prolonging your battery life.
Wipe down your hearing aids after use
When you take your hearing aids off at the end of the day, quickly wipe them off with a dry, dust-free cloth. Wiping down your aids can clean any excess moisture and dust off the outer casing and prevent them from entering the device.
Use a dehumidifier
Another common way of preventing moisture damage is to use a dehumidifier to store your hearing aids. There are several different types of dehumidifiers. Some are simple plastic containers that include a desiccant (or small packet of crystals) that absorbs moisture overnight. Other humidifiers include a tiny electric fan that dries the hearing aids. The type you choose will depend on your climate, personal needs, and budget.
Use sweat covers
Hearing aid sweat covers or sweatbands are like little moisture-absorbing socks for your hearing aids. They can cost as little as $20 per pair or as much as $30 per cover. A little shopping and price comparing online will give you a good idea of the range of products available and what might work best for you. You can also talk to your provider about sweat covers they might recommend.
Protect Your Aids for Best Outcomes
No matter if you live in a humid environment or in the middle of the desert, protecting your hearing aids against moisture is important to ensure they last a long time and serve you well. Today, moisture protection for hearing aids is the best it has ever been, and you can supplement any hearing aid’s basic moisture protection by following a few simple tips to ensure they last as long as possible.