Hearing aids of today really are amazing pieces of technology. They help us hear the world around us wherever we may be, they favor speech over background noise, and they connect with the devices that keep us connected to family, friends and media. Their DSP (digital signal processing) has become so sophisticated that, in many situations, it is not even necessary to adjust their program to fit the environment. Some people have reported becoming so comfortable with their hearing aids that they forget they’re wearing them, and hop into the shower or swimming pool without removing them first!
Hearing Aids are Not Waterproof
This brings us to an important point: Hearing aids are not waterproof. The sensitive electronics inside will be damaged by moisture, and yet our hearing aids need to live behind our ears or inside our ear canals, neither of which is a particularly hospitable environment for moisture-sensitive instruments. Wax and moisture accumulated over time will cause hearing aids to function less than optimally, and a full dousing can potentially cause catastrophic damage.
Hearing aids’ resistance to dust and moisture has improved significantly in recent years, largely thanks to the advent of rechargeable batteries. With rechargeable batteries, a traditional battery compartment (which requires a door) is not necessary. Integration with smartphone apps has also helped. Most hearing aids no longer require a volume dial. You may have noticed that some hearing aids have nothing but a simple rocker switch, or no controls on the hearing aids themselves, at all. This allows the device to be mostly sealed against moisture.
The one problem that hasn’t been solved is in waterproofing speakers and microphones. The materials used to manufacture these tiny transducers are not waterproof, and attempting to seal them behind waterproof materials drastically impedes their functionality.
However, just a few years ago, some manufacturers were selling waterproof hearing aids! What’s that about? Well, the increased level of water resistance has made it such that some hearing aids can, in fact, function underwater for some time without being destroyed. The manufacturers of these hearing aids got a little bit ahead of themselves and labeled their products “waterproof” when, in fact, they are merely water-resistant. Today, if you purchase a set of water-resistant hearing aids, they will likely have the same level of protection against moisture as the hearing aids that were sold as “waterproof” just a few years ago.
IP Standards of Dust and Moisture Resistance
There is an international standard that allows all electronics devices to be rated according to their protection against the elements, called an “IP” rating. IP stands for “ingress protection.” Each rating has a two-digit number. The first digit denotes the device’s protection against dust, and the second against moisture. Some examples of ratings include:
- Degree of Dust Protection (first digit)
- 5 – Dust protected
- 6 – Dust-tight
- Degree of Water Protection (second digit)
- 6 – Protection against strong water jets
- 7 – Protection from immersion in water up to 1 meter deep for 30 mins
- 8 – Protection from longer periods of immersion in water
It is not uncommon today for hearing aids to have an IP rating of up to IP68, and this is about as high as it gets. Most RIC (receiver-in-canal) hearing aids are rated IP68, which should be sufficient to protect them from rain and occasional immersion, not to mention the perspiration and ambient humidity they may be exposed to on a regular basis.
However, if hearing aids are left moist for prolonged periods, functionality will suffer and the hearing aids may fail. One way to protect your hearing aids from eventual moisture damage, even if you get them wet sometimes, is to regularly use the Redux process to dry them out.
Redux Removes All Moisture From Hearing Aids
Redux is a revolution in drying technology. A vacuum is created inside the Redux machine, while a low amount of heat is applied. In 15 minutes, 100% of the moisture is removed from the device. The process is useful when electronics have been accidentally submerged, but can also be thought of as a regular maintenance practice for hearing aids.
Based on thousands of dries conducted by existing Redux partners, the improvements are surprising and impressive. Moisture is removed in 98% of hearing aids that undergo the process, and subjective improvement in performance was reported in 77% of cases. Even if you think your hearing aids are working fine, a regular Redux process will help protect them from eventual moisture damage, and you may be surprised to find that your hearing aids will perform better!