Water Sports with Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants
When Water Spells Disaster
While some hearing aids and cochlear implants are water resistant or "sprinkler proof," these devices will be damaged if submerged in water for a prolonged period of time. For the active person with hearing loss, there are several accessories and techniques to make enjoying the water safe for hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Waterproof Heaing Aids and Cochlear Implants
In 2011, Siemens introduced the Aquaris: a high quality digital hearing aid which can be completely immersed in water while swimming or participating in other water sports. The battery door and microphone covers have been designed to create a waterproof seal, allowing the Siemens Aquaris to be submerged to a depth of three feet for thirty minutes. The Siemens Aquaris is for mild to moderate hearing losses.
In the world of cochlear implants, Advanced Bionics has introduced the Neptune: a waterproof cochlear implant. Advanced Bionics has completely revolutionized the way this CI is worn: the processor can be clipped to any accessory and does not have to be worn behind-the-ear. The Neptune's processor can be clipped to an armband while swimming, and the processor is waterproof to a depth of 3 feet. The Neptune was approved by the FDA in December 2011. The approximate cost (per ear) for the Neptune processor is $8,000.
Choose Water Resistant Equipment
Several hearing aid companies have developed water resistant hearing aids. While these hearing aids are not safe to take on a surfing trip, they will withstand some water spray. The Phonak Naida is resistant to moisture produced by sweating from exercise or a sprinkling rain. The ReSound Alera is another hearing aid model that is resistant to moisture.
Cochlear has developed a cochlear implant (the Nucleus 5, or N5) which is extremely water resistant. Currently, no other cochlear implant offers this level of water resistance. Currently, the Nucleus 5 can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes, and sports a water resistant rechargeable batter to further reduce the risk of damage due to moisture. For cochlear implant users who enjoy time at the beach or sailing, the N5 offers the ability to participate in the action without sacrificing hearing ability.
Cochlear's N5 is Water Resistant
Get the Right Accessories
There are several products to help protect hearing aids and cochlear implants in wet environments.
- Ear Gear covers behind-the-ear hearing aids and cochlear implant speech processors with a water resistant neoprene sheath. This product reduces moisture exposure, in addition to keeping sand and dust out of the microphone. Designs are available for acoustic hearing aids, cochlear implants, and bone-anchored hearing aid systems.
- Hearing aid sweat bands protect behind-the-ear hearing aids from sweat and moisture. Skiing, sailing, and trips to the beach are all less risky with a sweat band in place.
- Super Seals are another option for protecting hearing aids from moisture. The seals are applied with a special tool, and removed when the hearing aid battery needs replacement. Super Seals come in a variety of colors, allowing the hearing aid wearer to change the color as desired.
- Waterproof armbands are excellent for storing hearing aids or cochlear implants in situations where the wearer may be soaked with water. These waterproof carriers are often used for iPods or other music devices, but perform wonderfully for carrying hearing aids or cochlear implants through a deep creek on a hike, or even on a snorkeling trip. These armbands are a great idea at amusement parks, as the wearer can take off hearing devices on a water ride, safely store them as the deluge hits, and put them back on after the ride is over. Amphibx makes an armband that is 100% waterproof to a depth 12 feet.
- Waterproof a Cochlear Implant. Some cochlear implant users have created a method to seal the external components in a waterproof bag. The external cochlear implant components are first sealed in a food-saver bag or placed in an Aloksak bag. The sealed coil and speech processor is then placed on the head, with a swim cap over the top to hold everything in place. This method allows for swimming and hearing at the same time, but it is not entirely without risk. Note that any warranties may be voided by attempting this waterproofing method.
For avid sports enthusiasts, obtaining hearing aid insurance is vital. For a low monthly fee, companies such as Esco provide peace of mind for the adventurous. Hearing aid insurance will protect against loss or damage.
Make a Splash!
With all of the available accessories and technology, hearing aid and cochlear implant users have many options for enjoying the sports they love. Get the right protective gear, then go out and make a splash!