a smartphone being dropped in water

Are Hearing Aids Waterproof? IP Ratings Can Tell You

Contributed by Riva Trivedi

3/5/2024 12:00:00 AM • 8 min read

When you buy an electronic device these days, chances are you’ll come across phrases like “waterproof” or “water-resistant.” If you’re like me, you probably don’t know exactly what the difference is. Hearing aids are similar – when researching what kind of hearing aid to buy, you may wonder “Is my device going to be safe in the rain?” “What if it falls in the pool?” “Can I wear it in the shower?” The problem with phrases like “waterproof” is how vague they are. 

To clarify how waterproof something is, electronics (and hearing aid) manufacturers use IP Ratings. 

What are IP Ratings?

IP ratings, or Ingress Protection ratings, provide a detailed definition of how protected electronic devices are from dust and water. Developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in 1976, IP ratings provide a standardized system by which electronic devices are to be tested and measured. Manufacturers follow the guidelines set out in the document IEC 60529 when testing their products. This document lays out the level of ingress protection required for each rating, as well as the conditions and equipment needed to perform the tests for each IP digit. 

Because of the standardization of the testing and ratings, consumers can more easily determine if a device has the level of “waterproofing” they desire. 

How to Read IP Ratings

So how do you read an IP rating? It's actually quite straightforward. IP ratings consist of a 2-digit number. The first digit represents how protected the product is from solid particles, like dust, and the second is how protected the product is from liquids, like water.

Let's use Oticon Intent™ hearing aids as an example. Oticon Intent hearing aids have an IP68 rating (as do most high-end prescription hearing aids on the market today). The solid particle (first digit) rating works on a scale of 0 to 6, with 0 being no protection and 6 being completely protected. The liquid particle rating (second digit) works on a scale of 0 to 9, with 0 being no protection and 9 being protected from high pressure. 

So, the Oticon Intent, and similar hearing aids, is extremely dustproof; and quite waterproof as well. While Oticon does not recommend it, the IP rating of 8 for liquids means that the body of the hearing aid can withstand being submerged up to a meter in water for up to 30 minutes. 

Breaking Down IP Scales

1st Digit (Solid Objects)

  • X - Protection level not tested
  • 0 - Offers no protection from solid objects of any size
  • 1 - Protected against solid objects 50mm or greater; such as your hand
  • 2 - Protected against solid objects 12.5mm or greater; such as your finger
  • 3 - Protected against solid objects 2.5mm or greater; such as a screwdriver
  • 4 - Protected against solid objects 1mm or greater; such as a wire
  • 5 - Protected against dust that will interfere with operation of the equipment
  • 6 – Dust-tight

2nd Digit (Water)
  • X - Protection level not tested
  • 0 - Offers no protection from water
  • 1 - Protected against vertically falling water
  • 2 - Protected against vertically falling water when enclosure is tilted up to 15°
  • 3 - Protected against spraying water up to 60° on either side of the vertical object
  • 4 - Protected against splashing water from any direction
  • 5 - Protected against water jets
  • 6 - Protected against powerful water jets
  • 7 - Protected against the effects of temporary immersion of water at depths of 1 meter for about 30 minutes
  • 8 - Protected against the effects of continuous immersion of water at depths of 1 meter or more
  • 9 - Protected against the effects of high-pressure and -temperature water jets

You’ll notice on the breakdown above that, in addition to the numbers, there is also an “X.” This essentially means the product has not been tested in that category. For example, Apple AirPods Pro® 2 carries an IPX4 rating. The product has not been tested for the ingress of solid particles, but it has been water tested and carries a level 4 rating. 

As technology advances, manufacturers are being challenged by their industry counterparts to raise the IP ratings for their products. As consumers, we would want our products to be protected from ingress at the highest level. For instance, many popular cell phones today, such as the iPhone® 15, Galaxy S23 Ultra, and the Google Pixel 7A,  have IP ratings of IP68, just like Oticon Real hearing aids. Another recent phone release was criticized for having an IP rating of IP65, making it far less water-resistant than its competitors.

Oticon strives to ensure its hearing aids are protected from ingress at the highest level possible, so you can enjoy all life has to offer without the stress of damage to your hearing aids from sweat or splashes of water. 

Schedule a complimentary hearing assessment* today and you can demo our latest hearing aids and see what a hearing aid with an IP68 rating sounds like! 

*See office for details.

Riva Trivedi

Riva Trivedi has been at HearingLife since October 2023. She holds a degree in English from Montclair State University and a Master’s Degree in Communication and Digital Media from Rutgers University. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her puppy, Ransom, and anything related to the arts.

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