Hearing Aid Reliability and IP Ratings

Ingress Protection (IP) Ratings are used to define levels of sealing effectiveness of electrical enclosures against intrusion from foreign bodies (dust, dirt, etc) and moisture.  ReSound’s Jennifer Groth and Torben Groth were recently interviewed by AudiologyOnline.com about IP ratings and how audiologists should or should not be using those ratings in the hearing instrument selection process.  Here’s what they had to say.

Jennifer Groth, ReSoundJennifer Groth: “It is now typical for manufacturers to advertise and market IP ratings for hearing aids, as if they are some kind of a quality indicator for long-term performance. There are a lot of misconceptions about IP ratings and what they really mean.  They are not an indicator of longer-term reliability and performance.   We are doing a lot of qualification testing that is much more significant to long-term reliability than what is covered by the IP test.”

“You may see claims that a manufacturer or product is “certified” at a certain IP rating. In fact, there is no certification process.  After your device has been tested, you receive a report on how your device performed under the test conditions.  You, as the manufacturer, decide if you are satisfied with the way your device performed under the test that you ordered.”

Torben_GrothTorben Groth: “IP rating is not predictable of long-term reliability.  It also does not relate to what I would call a hearing instrument real-life use scenario. For example, the test specifies the use of clean water.  If you expose a hearing instrument to clean water, probably nothing will happen.  But if you take it to a swimming pool with chlorinated water or on a boat where you have a salt water spray, that is a different story.”

“We know that things happen – you may get stuck in a rain shower while you are wearing your hearing aids, or forget to remove them when getting in the shower.  If this should occur, take the battery out, dry the aids with a soft cloth and leave them open to fully dry out, or use a drying kit if you have one.  When it’s completely dry, insert a fresh battery and you may find the aid working again.  We design the hearing aids for real world use, including occasional accidents. Testing according to the IP system does provide a snapshot of whether a hearing aid is likely to survive such an accident, and ReSound includes testing to the IP57 standard in our battery of environmental tests. Similar to what other manufacturers report, test results have been that the devices continue to work once the battery is replaced.”

“Our industry lacks a common standard for how to test hearing instruments when it comes to environmental protection.  That is really what we need.  Then we can start comparing manufacturer to manufacturer.  Today you see claims like “ours is the best”, “we have the best nano coating”, and “I have a higher IP rating than you do”.  But these claims do not really say anything about product quality.”

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