Hearing Aid IP Ratings Explained
For years, I used to be terrified of using my hearing aids anywhere near water. I even developed a weird habit to triple check whether I still have my hearing aids in before I’m stepping into the shower or before diving into a swimming pool. I do it even if I’m 100% certain that I’ve just taken off my hearing aids and put them away safely in a box.
It’s not a bad idea at all to store my hearing aids safely before jumping into the pool, however, most modern hearing aids are dust and water resistant to some degree, so I’ve begun to relax a little.
To know the exact degree to which hearing aids are resistant to dust and water, we have to look at their IP Ratings in the hearing aids specifications.
What are IP Ratings?
IP Ratings tell us how electronic devices—such as hearing aids or smartphones—manage against solid and liquid object intrusion, for example dust and water. An IP Rating will have two digits: the first digit indicates the level of protection against solids (e.g. dust), the second one against liquids (e.g. water).
The IP Rating for solids is expressed on a 0-6 scale, with 0 being the minimum and 6 the maximum. 5 and 6 indicate the best dust protection, 5 meaning limited dust protection and 6 total protection.
The IP Rating scale for liquid goes from 0 to 8. Also in this case, 0 indicates the lowest protection and 8 the highest. To obtain a liquid IP Rating of 7 or 8 hearing aids are immersed in 1 meter-deep water (or deeper) for 30 minutes or more. If during this time, no water makes it to the electrical parts of the hearing aid, the test is considered successful.
Does it mean that if you purchase hearing aids with high IP Ratings you can go for a swim in the lake with your hearing aids still in?
Not really. Even if they’ve been tested in immersed water for a long time, these tests are conducted in clean freshwater, and without a battery. If you’re swimming in a lake or swimming pool there will be bacteria in the water, which can also damage your hearing aids. And if your zinc battery is immersed in water it will stop working after a few minutes.
IP Ratings give us some protection against accidental splashes, sweat and dust, but it’s still recommended that we store our hearing aids in a safe place when we’re not using them, that we keep them clean and dry them using dry kits or dry boxes.
TIP: To find out what IP Ratings your current hearing aids have, you can Google your HA “model + specifications” or, alternatively, you can ask your audiologist.