Hearing aids don’t mix well with water

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For the past year and a half, persons with hearing loss have been at an increased disadvantage with mask-wearing decreasing their ability to hear by muffling sounds, as well as preventing lipreading, which vastly improves the quality of speech understanding. 

Now with warm weather and the ability to get outdoors and enjoy a greater variety of activities, the new concern arises related to water safety and hearing loss. Individuals with hearing loss are again at an increased disadvantage when it comes to being able to communicate and participate in water activities as hearing aids are not waterproof. 

Many people with hearing loss depend entirely on their hearing aids for communication and when they take them out, the world becomes silent. So here are some tips for coping with hearing loss while enjoying activities in and around the water.  

  1. Depending on the severity of your hearing loss, taking your hearing aids out to enjoy water activities is the best and safest option to minimize damage to your hearing aid. However, this may not be the most practical option because it then further isolates you from conversations and, in fact, negatively impacts your safety.
    Therefore, if you choose to take your hearing aids out, please inform those around you so that if there is a safety concern, they will be aware of the need to alert you by a visual or tactile method not verbal.
    -Hearing aids are fairly small so if you choose to take them out, be sure to store them in a safe, cool, dry place. Avoid leaving them in your car if it is hot outside as the heat itself, in addition to the moisture that it generates, would be damaging to the hearing aids.
    – If you are keeping them in your personal or some other item near water, place them in a hearing aid keeper or a zippered plastic bag for added protection. If you do a lot of water activities, purchasing a small waterproof container called an Aid Keeper would be ideal and can be found in sporting goods stores in the water sports department or through your hearing aid provider.
    Ideally, you should take your hearing aids out before water exposure such as showering, hair-washing or swimming, or if it’s raining.
  2.  Purchase hearing aids that are more water-resistant. You will want to look for the Ingress Protection [IP] standards rating. The ratings were developed by the International Electro-technical Commission to define the level of sealing effectiveness of many devices such as hearing aids against dust, sand, dirt, or other fine particles and moisture.
    The letters IP are followed by two digits: The first number defines the hearing aid’s effectiveness in sealing out particles e.g. dust and the second rates its protection against moisture. The protection against debris is on a scale of 1-7 and for moisture is on a scale of 0-9. Therefore, an IP 67 would suggest that the device has been tested to robustly keep out dust particles and as well still function after 30 minutes underwater that is less than three feet deep. Be sure to ask your hearing instrument provider about the IP rating if you are a person that sweats a lot, work in an environment that is hot and humid, or where you get exposure to splashes of water or liquid. Moisture Rating scale of IPX0 would imply no protection, 1-protection against condensation or dripping water falling vertically to an IPX5 which is protection against low-pressure water stream from any angle, or an IPX8 that is protection against continual water submersion in underwater conditions.
  3.  If you choose to keep your hearing aids in place during your water activities then consider using a water-resistant
    sleeve to fit over and protect your hearing aids from accidental water exposure from splashing, excessive perspiration, or getting caught in the rain. The sleeves also have clips to attach your clothing so that if your hearing aids do fall out, they are less likely to land in the water or onto the ground and be damaged or lost.
  4.  Wipe them down nightly or whenever you take them out with a dry cloth to reduce any moisture from the day-to-day activities or normal sweating.
  5. When your hearing aids are not in use, keep the battery compartment door open to allow drying of the chamber.
  6.  Use a dehumidifier to more thoroughly evaporate any water from your hearing aids especially if you accidentally are submerged or went into the shower with them in place or if you live in a very humid environment.
  7. As always, consult with your hearing aids professional or contact us at Andros Audiology with questions or to learn more. Hear to Enhance Life!

Dr. Inell Rosario is a board-certified ENT and sleep physician practicing at Andros ENT
& Sleep Center in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. She has many times been recognized as
a Top Doctor and Best Doctor in various Minnesota magazines and can be reached at drrosario@androsent-sleep.com or 651-888-7800.