KidsAudiologist

Waterproof hearing aids & cochlear implants

Posted on: March 27, 2012

Updated May 2017 with new products

In this blog post Meriah Nicols describes What it’s like to wear waterproof hearing aids!

Analogue hearing aids

There have been a couple of different models of water resistant / waterproof hearing aids available on the market for many years that are suitable for a range of hearing losses. Most children now use digital hearing aids so these wouldn’t be recommended for everyday use but some parents may choose to purchase one for holidays or swimming classes etc. The two manufacturers I am aware of are Starkey who supply the Rion range of hearing aids (tel: 0500 262131 or email sales@starkey.co.uk) and Puretone who supply the Lotos range of hearing aids (tel: 01634 719427 or email webmail@puretone.net).

Digital hearing aids

Water resistant and waterproof digital hearing aids are now also available in the UK.

Siemens were the first to launch a waterproof model known as Aquaris in 2011. The Aquaris is suitable for moderate hearing losses. Unfortunately Siemens (now Sivantos) recently announced that they would be discontinuing the Aquaris range although they would be supporting the current ones for the next 5 years. At the moment NHS audiology services can buy hearing aids outside of the contract if there is a more suitable model available so if parents are interested in this model ask your audiologist for advice on the options locally. They may feel that your child’s current hearing aids are more appropriate for a number of reasons, including if for example they use direct audio input with a radio aid at school (which isn’t available on the Aquaris).

Phonak and Oticon also market a range of hearing aids that they describe as water resistant and suitable for protection from rain, splashes and sweat, but not suitable for immersion – and both manufacturers hearing aids are widely available from the NHS. They meet similar water protection ratings as the Siemens Aquaris above and both Phonak and Oticon say they are suitable for temporary immersion in water but do not go as far as saying they are waterproof. Wearers should follow normal care procedures should their instruments get excessively wet and temporarily stop working.

Buying hearing aids privately

If you’re interested in buying waterproof hearing aids privately in addition to your NHS hearing aids then I would advise speaking to an independent registered hearing aid dispenser rather than a chain who tend to be tied to one particular manufacturer.  Your local audiology department may be able to advise on a local trusted dispenser, download the NDCS publication Hearing Aids; Information for families which includes a section on purchasing hearing aids privately, or contact the NDCS Freephone Helpline who would be happy to provide you with further guidance.

Cochlear Implants

The first cochlear implant that was suitable for submerging in water was the Neptune by Advanced Bionics. Children will need to have  compatible internal parts to be able to use this speech processor so if your child was implanted some time ago ask your audiologist when the Neptune speech processor will be compatible for them.

Cochlear’s FreedomNucleus 5, Nucleus 6, and Advanced Bionic’s Harmony speech processors are all described as water resistant but are not suitable for swimming or bathing in. However the Nucleus 6 can also be used with the Aqua+ accessory making it waterproof.

Cochlearimplantonline.com has a useful brand comparison chart showing lots of details for the Cochlear, Advanced and Med-El devices including water resistance ratings.

This YouTube clip gives advice from other cochlear implant users on ‘waterproofing’ other models of cochlear implant processor and the experiences of a couple of families who have tried this method are blogged about here and here. But word of warning – do take care and consider the risks of being charged to repair/replace your cochlear implant if the NHS believes your negligence caused the damage.

Bone anchored and bone-conduction hearing aids

I am not aware at the time of writing of any water resistant or waterproof options for these types of hearing aid.

Acoustics & swimming pools

Finally, there are lots of situations when waterproof (and therefore sandproof, dustproof and mudproof!) hearing aids and cochlear implants could be really useful for deaf children. However, if one of your concerns are swimming classes then it is worth bearing in mind that the acoustics in swimming pools are often so bad that even with hearing aids or cochlear implants it is impossible to hear a swimming coach or someone on the side calling to you. So additionally, it is worth contacting NDCS who run a project called Me2 aiming to make mainstream leisure activities and sports deaf-friendly. Contact the Me2 team for tips and guidance for swimming coaches to help make life easier for your child during lessons.

Water protection ratings

Oticon Safari (rated IP57) and Phonak Sky Q (IP67) making them waterproof up to 3 feet (1m) for 30 minutes. Oticon Sensei (IP58), and Siemens Aquaris, Phonak Sky V, and Advanced Bionics Neptune and Cochlear Nucleus (when using the Aqua+ accessory) are rated IP68 meaning they can be continuously immersed in water greater than one meter.

If you want more technical detail on how the hearing aids are tested and the standards they are tested to see this Wikipedia entry on IP Codes and watch how the Siemens Aquaris hearing aid was tested on YouTube.

 

 

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2 Responses to "Waterproof hearing aids & cochlear implants"

This post was updated 28th March 2012 to help answer additional questions from parents of deaf children in the Twitter community. Many thanks to Caleb McNiece @cmcniece who highlighted Phonak’s hearing aid products for inclusion.

If you know of any further products that should be included please leave a comment – cheers!

I once saw a demonstration of a Starkey Receiver in Canal (Zon) hearing aid immersed into a glass of water and come out again working properly. It was a very effective demonstration of its hydrophobic properties.

Resound also now coat their hearing aids with a water repellant – but you’ll need to check with them whether they can be immersed.

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