Siemens Aquaris Waterproof Hearing Aids
As any hearing aid wearer will tell you, to have to take off your aids in company is a very isolating experience. As the family spontaneously rushes into the sea or swimming pool, you can be found carefully removing and storing them before taking to the very quiet water where you struggle to join in… we’ve all been there… but maybe now it doesn’t have to be that way.
Recently Siemens launched the first commercially available waterproof digital hearing aids (IP57 certified; waterproof up to 1 metre for 30 minutes) and kindly made a pair available to SeaHear to review. The Aquaris work like any other behind the ear (BTE) aids except the battery compartment is water tight and the microphones are covered with a thin film that allows sound to pass through but not water! Clearly these aids can be used like any other ones, but if they are going to be immersed you need ear moulds that have no vent holes. If you currently wear BTE aids, your audiologist will have supplied moulds most appropriate for your hearing loss and these may contain a vent hole beneath the tube hole. So to avoid water circulating through the vent hole and back into the hearing aid, only moulds without vents can be used whilst in the water, but you can swap back to your vented ones when on dry land!
The aids have a slightly rubbery coating which means they fit snugly, stay in place and are very comfortable to wear. They are best suited to users with mild to moderate hearing loss, (up to about 75db loss). My loss is greater than that so although the quality of sound was good, the volume wasn’t as loud as I’d like. That isn’t a criticism of the aids... there’s only so much amplification you can fit in a small space. Acoustically, the sound is mellower than my NHS Oticon Spirit Zests, and having worn aids from several different makes, each seem to have their own ‘acoustic style’
The aids have Bluetooth connectivity when used in conjunction with the miniTek (see photo above). This is a great piece of kit that opens up a world of possibilities. It comes with just about every connector lead you could need; for example you can plug it into your TV’s audio output and the sound will be bluetoothed straight into aids (whilst still be able to hear ambient sound), or you can use the jack lead to connect to an iPod.. One of the more bizarre test experiences was to be able to listen to music whilst in the shower....that would be a first for many aid wearers! The miniTek isn’t waterproof but fits easily into an Aquapac should you want to take it into a moist/humid environment (photo below). The miniTek also connects to Bluetooth mobile phones meaning your precious handset can be kept secure from the elements.
For swimming Siemens are able to supply clips with a length of coated wire to be folded around the ear to ensure the aids stay in place.
I used the aids with and without the clips and in normal circumstances including prolonged snorkelling to the bottom of the pool (1 metre deep), the clips weren’t needed. Having used the aids in a pool for 30 minutes swimming on the surface and diving, the aids performed exceptionally well, it’s a long time since I’ve heard sound underwater. By the end of the pool session a small amount of water had made its way past the ear moulds and into the tubes, resulting in a slight distortion to sound, but a quick blow through returned the aids to normal quality.
On the yacht, the aids easily dealt with the frequent spray and rain. We had force 6-7 over the stern on the run back from Poole but the turbulence suppression software kept control of the wind noise over the microphones. If I were concerned about their security my preference would be to use corded Ear Gear covers rather than the clips as that would further reduce wind noise.
Beyond swimming and sailing, there is now a wealth of water based sports such as Canoeing, Kayaking, Windsurfing and Kiteboarding where the availability of ‘deaf-aware’ instructors is limited and willingness to teach these sports to the hard of hearing is restricted due to health and safety concerns. The Aquaris aids could open up a whole new world of opportunities previously off limits to those of us with hearing loss.
So, in conclusion, would I buy them? If they had models that could handle my degree of loss, yes definitely. Siemens don’t retail direct to the public but you can use the link below to find an audiologist in your area.