How to Protect Your Hearing Aids from Moisture
Updated 12 August 2020
If you want your hearing aids to work without interruption, keeping them protected from moisture is the single most important thing you can do. Hearing aids are body-worn electronic devices. They are full of high-tech circuit boards and microelectronics, and are particularly prone to the corrosive effects of humidity and perspiration.
Over the years, hearing aid manufacturers have made huge advances in water-proofing their products. With the introduction of rubber seals and nano-coating, some hearing aids are even rated for shallow underwater use. Despite these improvements, moisture continues to be a serious issue for hearing aids, and knowing the basics of better care, especially how to keep them dry, can help you avoid any downtime related to moisture damage.
Table of Contents
- Moisture impacts all hearing aids
- Warning signs of water damage
- Can I wear my hearing aids in the rain?
- What are the most moisture-resistant hearing aids?
- IP ratings measure water resistance
- What are the benefits of dry hearing aids?
- How do you get moisture out of a hearing aid?
- Best waterproof hearing aids for 2020
Static or crackling sounds, distortion, fluctuations in volume, and intermittent outages are all signs of moisture damage.
There are currently no waterproof hearing aids available on the market. However, many hearing aids are now rated to handle “periods of immersion” in water at a depth of 3 meters (9.8ft) or less.
There is a long list of hearing aids that offer a strong IPX8 water resistance rating. New IPX8 products include Widex Moment and Oticon Ruby.
Inexpensive dry aid kits offer a great way to dry out your hearing aids overnight. For more difficult moisture issues, it may be worth investing in a drying system that applies heating and air flow. Many hearing clinics also offer industrial dryers for more rapid and thorough drying.
No, hearing aids are not rain-proof. You should try to avoid heavy rain while wearing your hearing aids. A light sprinkle unlikely to cause issues.
Moisture impacts all hearing aids
Recent research by Redux (a commercial hearing aid dryer company) revealed that 98%* of all hearing aids have some amount of moisture present. This isn’t surprising when considering the environment hearing aids operate in:
- Hearing aids spend hours surrounded by skin, an organ that releases moisture (sweat) to control your body temperature.
- The effects of perspiration may worsen due to exercise, certain medications, or underlying health conditions.
- Humidity exists as a vapor, allowing it to pass through barriers that are traditionally water-resistant. Consider that most homes keep water out with a roof and solid foundation, but all homes have moisture in them due to a level of humidity in the air.
- Your hearing aids can get wet when it’s cold out, too. If you wear glasses, you know they sometimes fog up when you come inside from the cold. That’s condensation due to the fast temperature change, and it can also create a layer of moisture on your hearing aids.
- And, no surprise, rain is a constant threat to hearing aids. More on that below.
*Based on Redux Inc. measurements of moisture removed from more than 750 hearing aids by hearing care professionals in multiple practices, states, and countries using the Redux vacuum chamber drying system,
Warning signs of water damage
Corrosion and other damage to your hearing aids can build up over time. If you have an in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid, sweat can quickly accumulate between the eardrum and the sensitive receiver.
Other form factors are also prone to moisture problems. The popular open-fit receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aids insert the speaker deep within your ear canal, where it’s surrounded by warm, moist air. The receiver is attached to a thin wire extending to the hearing aid processor sitting behind your ear, where there are additional opportunities for moisture buildup. And traditional behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids have an air tube extending from an ear mold in the ear, where moisture can build up quickly.
Here are a few warning signs that indicate your hearing aids may be on the way to failure:
- Static or crackling sounds—corrosion of electrical connections can create a lot of unwanted static in your ears.
- Distorted sounds or fluctuations in volume—damaged connections can create uneven performance in the audio output of your hearing aid.
- Intermittent outages—if your hearing aid suddenly turns off, then turns back on, corrosion may have damaged the contacts close to their final breaking point.
If you wear behind-the-ear hearing aids, sometimes a small drop of water can find its way into one of the tubes that extend from the ear mold to the processor, blocking all sound from entering your ear. Blowing out the tube is an easy temporary fix. However, the presence of that droplet is a sign that you may need to take additional steps to keep your hearing aids dry.
Can I wear my hearing aids in the rain?
No, hearing aids are not rain-proof. You should try to avoid heavy rain while wearing your hearing aids. Don’t worry—if you’re caught in a light shower as you dash from the grocery store to the car, you most likely won’t destroy your hearing aids. But make sure to take them off and dry them by hand as soon as possible afterward. Then, later, when you can afford to go without them for a few hours, you should dry your hearing aids out thoroughly using an at-home or commercial drying system.
If you can’t avoid the rain, you might want to consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat to shield your hearing aids. You may also want to consider growing your hair out to add a little protection.
What are the most moisture-resistant hearing aids?
In the past decade, there’s been a mini revolution in moisture protection for hearing aids. Digital 3D-print manufacturing ensures that the dozens of tiny components integrated into hearing aids fit more perfectly with each other and within their case. A better fit means less room for moisture to penetrate the components.
And new nanotechnology-based materials provide further protection. Nano coatings are polymer layers, one thousand times thinner than a human hair, applied when the aid is made. They cover the hearing instrument with a compound that repels water and moisture very effectively.
The good news is that all major hearing aid brands have dramatically improved the water resistance of their products. Premium-level hearing aids feature higher levels of water resistance. Less costly hearing aids may have lower ratings for protection but are more reliable now than in the past. However, keep in mind that there are currently no completely waterproof hearing aids available on the market.
IP ratings measure water resistance
When you’re shopping for a hearing aid, it’s helpful to look at the IP ratings (Ingress Protection) published by manufacturers for their products. IP ratings classify the level of protection that the casing of a hearing instrument provides against solids and liquids entering and damaging the device.
If you live somewhere with high humidity, if you work in an outdoor job, if you naturally sweat a lot, or if you are routinely exposed to other high-moisture environments, it will be important to ask for a highly-rated product. IP ratings are usually made up of two digits, the first denoting resistance to solids and the second to liquids.
IP ratings can be a helpful guide, but it’s important to note that ratings are assigned in laboratory conditions with “clean” water rather than sweat or rain. Additionally, IP ratings are not certified and may not reflect intended use. So, while a high IP rating is desirable, it does not guarantee moisture protection in the real world.
|IP Rating||Protected Against||IPX1||Dripping water||IPX2||Dripping water when tilted at 15°||IPX3||Spraying water||IPX4||Splashing of water||IPX5||Water jets||IPX6||Powerful water jets||IPX6K||Powerful water jets with increased pressure||IPX7||Immersion, up to 1 meter (3 ft 3 in) depth||IPX8||Immersion, 1 meter (3 ft 3 in) or more depth||IPX9K||Powerful high-temperature water jets|
Earbuds need to stay dry, too
Brands like Apple, Bose, and Amazon are continuing to expand their footprint into what is projected to be an $80B “hearables” (smart wireless earbuds) market by 2025. And moisture is an issue for this burgeoning product category of ear-worn devices, just like it is for hearing aids.
While Apple markets its hugely popular AirPods Pro earbuds as “sweat and water resistant,” the product footnote adds an important disclaimer: AirPods are only designed for “non-water sports and exercise…. Sweat and water resistance are not permanent conditions, and resistance might decrease as a result of normal wear.”
What are the benefits of dry hearing aids?
There are some very specific benefits you’ll get when keep your hearing aids dry.
- Better sound - Because modern hearing instruments are packed full of digital circuits and components, it only takes a very small amount of moisture to negatively impact sound quality. In fact, audiometric testing by Redux Inc. found that only 0.5 microliters of moisture was enough to cause a 30-dB reduction in hearing aid volume. That’s a big difference for someone with hearing loss.
- More reliable - Manufacturers report that a large percentage of returns are due to moisture damage and other related issues. This represents thousands of hearing aids returned to manufacturers each month, with returns increasing dramatically during the hotter and more humid summer months. Dryer products mean fewer returns are required.
- Longer lasting hearing aids - What is the life expectancy of a hearing aid? A good percentage of users upgrade their hearing aids every three or four years, but often their old hearing aids still work and can be donated to people who need them. The lifespan of hearing aids seems to be getting longer all the time, and the simple act of drying them out frequently can keep them healthy for years.
Making your hearing aids last
Results from a quick poll conducted by Hearing Tracker revealed that three out of every four hearing aid users replaces their hearing aids every 3-5 years. If you want your hearing aids to last beyond the typical 2-3 year manufacturer warranty, be sure to learn best practices for keeping your hearing aids dry!
How do you get moisture out of a hearing aid?
Keeping your hearing aids dry can be as simple as putting them in a drying container and leaving them overnight. Or for a total dry-out, many audiologists offer more sophisticated commercial drying systems in their offices.
Drying systems typically evaporate all the moisture that’s collected in your hearing aids, including the ear molds. The systems will even dry out the irritating droplets of water that block the sound from passing through a behind-the-ear hearing aid tube.
Depending on the climate you live in and how moist your ears are, there are a range of solutions and price levels to choose from:
1. Rice: the world’s oldest drying “technology”
This 8,000-year-old drying “technology” is widely available and will cost you about $2.00. However, there is little science to prove whether this method is any more effective than leaving your hearing aid out on a sunny countertop. And unfortunately, rice exposes your valuable electronics to tiny dust and starch particles that risk greater damage than moisture may have caused alone.
2. Dry aid kits
A dry aid kit is a small sealable jar or cup that has desiccants (tiny beads similar to what you might find in packets when you buy new shoes) that absorb moisture from the hearing aids. Dry aid kits can be found in most drugstores and retail for around $10-$20. They are a small investment and worth keeping on-hand for regular use, and for minor moisture issues that can typically be resolved overnight.
The desiccants themselves, loose beads or contained in a small disc, need to be "recharged" every few months in an oven per the dry kit directions.
Mini Dri-Aid from Hal Hen uses a dessicant to help eliminate moisture from hearing aids overnight.
3. Heat and fan system
Heat and fan systems can be ordered on-line for $80-$120. While the cost is higher, these systems are a better option than a standard dry kit for people living in high-moisture environments. They are designed to treat a hearing aid using warm air and heat, similar to a clothes dryer, and often recommended for overnight use. Some have a UV light in them designed to kill bacteria build-up, which may lessen any itchiness in your ears caused by wearing your hearing aids.
Note that the desiccant "bricks" that come with these systems need to be replaced every two months for about $4.
Dry & Store's DryMax UV heat and fan hearing aid drying system also has a UV light to kill bacteria.
4. Vacuum chamber drying
The newest technology available for drying aids comes from Redux, a system that audiologists use to dry out their patients’ hearing aids. Redux lowers the boiling point of moisture within a vacuum chamber, monitoring the humidity as it’s reduced to as close to zero as possible. The drying process takes about 12 minutes to remove all moisture from a pair of hearing aids.
The Redux hearing aid drying system uses a vacuum chamber to lower the temperature required to evaporate moisture.
Because the Redux system removes all moisture, it also enhances the effectiveness of ultrasonic processes for deep cleaning of foreign materials, such as wax, salt and other foreign materials that cause corrosion. According to data compiled by Redux, 76% of all aids treated with the system—even some previously reported as “dead”—showed an immediate improvement.
The bottom line
Your hearing aids probably weren’t cheap, and they’re bound to face moisture issues at some point during their lifetime. Hearing aid dryers offer an excellent way to protect your investment, and to ensure that your hearing aids sound better, offer greater reliability, and last longer.
Best waterproof hearing aids for 2020
From the Editors: While there is no such thing as a truly waterproof hearing aid, Hearing Tracker’s list of Best Hearing Aids in 2020 includes a number of models that have achieved a rating of “IP68” on the Ingress Protection rating scale. The “6” in the IP rating indicates excellent resistance to solid contaminants (“dust-tight, no ingress of dust over two-to-eight hours”), and the “8” indicates excellent water resistance (“resists periods of immersion under water”, generally up to 3 meters, or 9.8 ft).
Following are several of our picks for best hearing aids that also score at the top of the IP scale. Note that while all the models get great reviews for technical excellence and user satisfaction, we don’t rank them in order of preference:
1. Signia Charge & Go X
Signia’s Charge & Go X hearing aids run on the Xperience software platform, providing improved understanding of speech in noise and utilizing acoustic motion sensors to guide the directionality of the hearing aids’ microphones. Charge & Go hearing aids also come with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that provide 21 hours total battery life when fully-charged.
2. Phonak Audéo Marvel RT
Phonak’s Audéo hearing aids were the first to allow direct-streaming from iPhone and Android smartphones, and any other **Bluetooth-**enabled audio device. The RT model is rechargeable and features a telecoil that enables audio streaming from hearing loops in public spaces like churches and theaters.
3. Widex MOMENT mRIC
Widex MOMENT hearing aids offer automatic sound classification for 11 environments, lithium-ion rechargeability, and machine learning to optimize your listening experience across a variety of listening environments. They are also Made-for-iPhone and direct Android streaming is said to be on the way.
4. Oticon Opn S miniRITE R
Oticon Opn S hearing aids feature a sophisticated sound-processing system powered by a chipset that provides 15% better speech understanding, 10% reduced listening effort, and 10% better memory recall when compared to Oticon’s previous Opn platform. The miniRITE R offers rechargeability, but a rechargeable and telecoil-enabled model is not currently available for the Opn S line.
5. Starkey Livio AI BTE 13
Starkey Livio AI hearing aids integrate biosensors to track activity levels, detect falls, monitor social engagement, and feature other capabilities enabled by artificial intelligence and machine learning. The BTE 13 model offers a telecoil, but no rechargeability.
Water resistance ratings for popular hearing aids
Wondering if your hearing aid is water resistant? Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of IP ratings for almost every hearing aid model released since 2018. We’ll update the list regularly so check back often, or subscribe to our newsletter using the button below for email updates.
|Hearing Aid||IP Rating||Year Released||Audio Service Stiline BT||IP68||2019||Beltone Amaze RIE 63||IP58||2018||Bernafon Viron BTE 105||IP68||2019||Bernafon Viron miniRITE||IP68||2019||Bernafon Viron miniRITE T||IP68||2019||Bernafon Viron miniRITE T R||IP68||2019||Kirkland Signature (Costco) 8.0||IP68||2018||Kirkland Signature (Costco) 9.0||IP68||2019||Oticon Opn S BTE PP||IP68||2019||Oticon Opn S miniRITE||IP68||2019||Oticon Opn S miniRITE-R||IP68||2019||Oticon Opn S miniRITE-T||IP68||2019||Oticon Ruby BTE13 PP||IP68||2020||Oticon Ruby miniRITE||IP68||2020||Oticon Ruby miniRITE-T||IP68||2020||Oticon Siya BTE13 PP||IP68||2018||Oticon Siya miniRITE||IP68||2018||Oticon Siya miniRITE-T||IP68||2018||Oticon Xceed BTE SP||IP68||2019||Oticon Xceed BTE UP||IP68||2019||Philips HearLink BTE PP||IP68||2019||Philips HearLink miniRITE||IP68||2019||Philips HearLink miniRITE T||IP68||2019||Philips HearLink miniRITE TR||IP68||2019||Phonak Audéo Marvel 13T||IP68||2018||Phonak Audéo Marvel 312||IP68||2018||Phonak Audéo Marvel 312T||IP68||2018||Phonak Audéo Marvel R||IP68||2018||Phonak Audéo Marvel RT||IP68||2019||Phonak Bolero M M||IP68||2019||Phonak Bolero M PR||IP68||2019||Phonak Naída B B-R RIC||IP68||2018||Phonak Naída B B-SP||IP68||2018||Phonak Naída B B-UP||IP68||2018||ReSound LiNX Quattro RIE 61||IP58||2018||Signia Motion Nx 13P Nx||IP68||2018||Signia Pure Nx 10 Nx||IP67||2018||Signia Pure Nx Charge&Go||IP68||2018||Signia Styletto||IP68||2018||Signia Styletto Connect||IP68||2019||Signia Xperience Charge&Go X||IP68||2019||Signia Xperience Pure 312 X||IP68||2019||Starkey Livio BTE 13||IP68||2018||Starkey Livio RIC 312||IP58||2018||Starkey Livio RIC R||IP58||2019||Unitron Discover Moxi Fit||IP68||2019||Unitron Discover Moxi Jump R||IP68||2019||Unitron Tempus Moxi All||IP68||2018||Widex EVOKE BTE 13D||IP68||2019||Widex EVOKE Fashion||IP68||2018||Widex EVOKE Fashion Mini||IP68||2018||Widex EVOKE Fusion 2||IP68||2018||Widex MOMENT RIC 312||IP68||2020||Widex MOMENT mRIC R D||IP68||2020||Widex MOMENT RIC 10||IP68||2020|
Do your research
If you live in a humid environment, or are prone to heavy perspiration, be sure to carefully investigate the options, and pay special attention to the IP ratings of the hearing aids offered by your hearing care professional. Be sure to consult our list of IP-rated hearing aids, and if your product is missing from the list above, drop a comment in the discussion area below. We are here to help!