Waterproof Hearing Aids

This is the 10th (and so far last) part of my wishlist to audiologists and accousticians, hearing aid manufacturers, and the health care system. If you like to add something, share your experiences, or provide more information, I encourage you to submit a comment.

Most hearing aids are not waterproof. That leads to a lot of situations which are perfectly normal for hearing people but exclude hearing-impaired ones. For example: social water sports, pool parties, sauna with friends, a trip to the beach with friends, watching a movie with wet hair after you just had a shower, open air concerts in the rain, muddy festivals, listening to audiobooks or watching TV while lying the bathtub. I could go on and on. Also simply sweat is a problem for many people, especially those who perform a lot of sports.

There are a few hearing aids on the market that claim water resistance, I hope it will be standard and affordable soon.

See also the previous point on my wishlist: Legal certainty for situation related to broken hearing aids.

13 thoughts on “Waterproof Hearing Aids

  1. Yeah, I want waterproof hearing aids too. And while we’re at it, can they work reliably in cold temperatures?

    The very short answer of why they only now are coming onto the market: waterproof materials are mostly soundproof.

    For the sweat problem, you can get soft absorbant fabric covers for BTE hearing aids (AFAIK, ITE HAs don’t have the same sweat problem.) which do help protect the hearing aids.

  2. Thanks for you comment!

    I am surprised that cold temperatures is a problem. I never had this problem before, but I find it interesting. I visited a hearing aid company a while ago and they explained the whole manufacturing process to me. When they were talking about the quality assurance, I asked what they do about cold temperatures (having your comment in mind). They said they only test the hearing aids till 0 degrees celsius. They said that if a hearing aid, which usually absorbs some of the wearer’s body temperature, is lower than 0 degrees, then the wearer is probably dead. Maybe that is not right and they don’t really absorb the temperature that well?

  3. First factor: wind chill.

    Second factor: mechanical stress on the hearing aid while being worn.

    I’ve had two forms of cold weather failure: one pair where the sound would cut out below freezing (this was known by the audiologists who prescribed them) and I had the ear horn on my current pair snap in two due to what I can only assume was the extreme cold — no other factors.

  4. I want waterproof too! Re my comment on your “insurance” post, I’d like to wear my hearing aids without fear when sailing and doing sports (even if judo is a bit of an extreme situation, and I can accept that).

    I’m also dreading the day when I’ll jump under the shower having forgotten to remove them.

  5. Just read the BBC piece, I am 36 and agree with many of the points it makes. Yes waterproof would be fantastic, i have really been put off swimming which i used to love as I can’t put hearing aids back on until my hair is reasonably dry otherwise moisture goes in and have to dry them out for 24hours and can’t hear a thing. Also bluetooth to mobile so I could use my mobile to talk again which isn’t really possible now. And why not coloured- I was told only children could have the coloured ones. Most of the time mine are great but its these little things which make me realise I am ‘disabled’.
    Fiona, Bournemouth, UK

  6. I have just contacted Liquipel to see if they have tried waterproofing hearing aids and asked them to respond via this blog.
    Watch this space!!

    John

  7. have had siemens aquaris for over 12 months but must say I am not pleased with them
    I find swimming on my back they last for something like two minutes before water
    enters the battery compartment( which is supposed to be waterproof) knocking out the sound drying off the battery cures the problem
    I tried hanging the aid over the side of a glass of water which just covered the hearing aid
    battery compartment and within one minute it ceased to work so for a device that cost me £ 1600 I must say I am not exactly tickled pink

  8. Your wish is granted.

    Siemens Aquaris and the new Phonak H20 hearing aid ranges are both ‘water-resistant’ and meet the IP 58 and 68 standards respectively (where first number = dust resistance (5 or 6) and second number = water resistance 8). Meeting “8” for water resistance means that the hearing aid will operate for 30 mins at 1m depth in water. It will not work for much longer than this because being submerged robs the battery compartment of air which the battery needs to function.

    Ken Dunn – the Siemens Aquaris needs to be re-cased every 12 months and should be covered under your warranty as the case begins to cease being able to resist water. Take it back to your audiologist ASAP and have it recased.

  9. Apologies – a slight correction
    Siemens Aquaris is IP 57
    Phonak H20 is IP 67

    The new Siemens Micon range soon to come out will have a wider variety of water resistance in it’s range.

  10. Each water proof hearing aid is tested to spec as new, and often unavoidable to add silicone grease to ensure water proof effect at the “o-ring” if there is one. Opening and closing of the battery door for battery change will cause wear and tear to the water proof parts. Some hearing aids battery door double function as on/off switch, switch the device on once a day causes rubbing twice, that is the reason why recasing is somehow reasonable, unless customer is trained how to do that themselves.

  11. Both Phonak and Siemens use P2i coating, not Liquipel. But there is a misconception about nano-coating provides water proof capability, this is the case even in the engineering field. Hydrophobic coating increase the surface tension and hence the contact angle of a droplet on the hearing aid surface, so that the water droplets roll off instead of staying on the surface, because there is higher chance for a droplet to seep into the hearing aid due to capillary action. Normally whenever there is a close gap, water travels into the hearing aid even faster than a bigger gap, so the only effective way is to design it with o-ring/seals (like a submarine). For zinc air battery and sound transmission, there is material that allows air but not water to go through (like your mountaineering jacket or hiking boots).

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