As a swimmer, you love being in the water. The pool is like your second home (when you were a kid, everyone said you were part fish–that’s how often you wanted to swim). Today, the water seems a bit… louder… than usual. And that’s when you realize you may have made a mistake: you wore your hearing aids into the pool. And you aren’t entirely sure those tiny electronic devices are waterproof.
In most cases, you’re right to be a little worried. Hearing aids are often constructed with some amount of water resistance in mind. But a device that resists water is much different than a device that’s waterproof.
Water Resistance Ratings and Hearing Aids
Generally speaking, your hearing aids are going to work best when they are kept clean and dry. But some hearing aids are designed so a little splash here and there won’t be a big deal. It all depends on something called an IP rating–that’s the officially designated water resistance number.
Here’s how the IP rating works: every device is given a two-digit number. The first number represents the device’s resistance against sand, dust, and other forms of dry erosion.
The second number (and the one we’re really interested in here) represents how resistant your device is to water. The higher the number, the longer the device will last (in three feet of water or so). So a device with a rating of IP87 will be quite resistant to sand and work for around thirty minutes in three feet of water.
Some modern hearing aids can be quite water-resistant. But there are no hearing aids currently available that are entirely waterproof.
Is Water Resistance Worthwhile?
The sophisticated electronics inside your hearing aid case aren’t going to mesh well with water. Typically, you’ll want to remove your hearing aids before you go swimming or hop in the shower or, depending on the IP rating, sit outside in excessively humid weather. No amount of water resistance will help if you drop your hearing aids in the deep end of a swimming pool, but there are some situations in which a high IP rating will absolutely be to your advantage:
- If you live in a relatively humid, rainy, or wet climate
- If you perspire significantly, whether at rest or when exercising (sweat, after all, is a form of water)
- You have a proclivity for water sports (such as fishing or boating); the spray from the boat might warrant high IP rated hearing aids
- You have a history of forgetting to take your hearing aids out before you shower or walk out into the rain.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg. It’ll be up to you and your hearing specialist to take a look at your daily life and determine just what sort of water resistance is strong enough for your routine.
You Have to Take Care of Your Hearing Aids
It’s important to note that water-resistant does not mean maintenance-free. Between sweat-filled runs, it will be in your best interest to ensure that you clean your hearing aids and keep them dry.
In some cases, that might mean investing in a dehumidifier. In other cases, it might just mean storing your hearing aids in a nice dry place every night (it depends on your climate). But certain types of moisture can leave residue (sweat among them), so to get the best results, you will also want to take the proper time to clean your hearing aids thoroughly.
What Should You Do If Your Hearing Aids Get Wet?
If there’s no such thing as a waterproof hearing aid, should you panic when your devices get wet? Well, no–mostly because panicking won’t improve anything anyway. But you will want to carefully allow your hearing aids to dry and check in with your hearing specialist, especially if they have a low IP rating.
The IP rating on your hearing device will give you an idea of what you can expect in terms of possible water damage. At the very least, try to remember to take your hearing aids out before you go swimming. The drier your hearing devices stay, the better.