Can You Wear Earbuds With Wet Ears?


Woman with earbuds wearing a rain coat

No matter how much we try, keeping earbuds dry all the time is next to impossible. Let’s be honest. You probably did not buy it so that you can relax on the couch and listen to music. You were looking for a premium hands-free experience. Something to let you commute freely or work out without the constant restraints of wired headphones.

You can wear earbuds with wet ears. Whether they can get damaged by coming in contact with water is a different matter. Some earbuds are protected from water and dust to a certain degree based on their IP rating while others are not. Higher IP correlates to better protection.

What is IP rating?

The full form of IP is Ingress Protection, where Ingress means “to enter”. Therefore, IP rating determines how well your device is protected against the intrusion of solid particles and water. The IP rating of earbuds (or any electronic gadget) consists of two digits, for example, IP 68. 

The first digit signifies how well it is protected against dust and the second signifies its protection against water. In rare cases, you also see a third number that determines its impact resistance, but almost nobody uses it. 

The following chart breaks down all of the IP ratings. Check here to see if your earbuds are protected against wet ears.

Water

Rating LevelProtection AgainstLevel of Protection (Angle/Depth)Test Method
0No protection 
1DripsVertical dropsUnit mounted on a rotating platform for 10 minutes. Similar to 1mm rainfall per minute. 
2Drips while tiltingVertical dropsEarbuds tilted at 15o and tested for 2.5 minutes in four positions. Same as 3mm rainfall per minute.
3Sprayed  waterSprayed at a 60o angleWater sprayed for 5 minutes. 10 liters/minute at pressure 50 to 150 kilopascals (kPa). Equals 7 to 21 PSI. 
4Splashed waterOmnidirectional splash protectionSprayed with nozzle for 10 minutes.
5Jets of waterWater jets from 6.33mm nozzle12.5 liters of water/minute at 100 kPa or 4.35 PSI for up to 15 minutes at a distance of 3 meters. 
6More powerful jets of waterJets from a 12.5mm nozzle100 liters/minute at 100 kPa or 14.05 PSI for 3 minutes at a 3-meter distance.
7ImmersionLess than 1m deep waterSubmerged at a depth of 19.68 inches (0.5 m) to 39.37 inches (1 meter).
8Deeper immersion1 meter or more depthSubmerged between 1 and 3 meters; duration determined by the manufacturer. 
9KHigh-temperature powerful jets of waterCan survive steam cleaning16 liters/minute at 80oC from 4 angles for 30 seconds.
XUntested– 

Solid particles (Dirt/Dust)

Rating LevelProtection from Object (size)ExamplesTest Method
0No protection
1Larger than 50mmCannot insert body parts
2Larger than 12.5mmCannot insert fingers.
3Larger than 2.5mmCannot insert wires and screws.
4Larger than 1mmNot entirely prevented.
5Dust and sandNo prevented entirelyCirculates dust.
6DustComplete protectionUsed vacuum to force dust into earbuds.
XUntested

So, the next time you are out buying earbuds and intend to use them with wet ears, make sure to check their IP rating first. I am speaking from personal experience because I once bought quite an expensive earbud and assumed it had IP protection. However, it started malfunctioning after a month.

I mostly used them to listen to music during my workouts. When I took them in for repairs, the technician told me the circuit was water-damaged. It’s only then I discovered that the IP protection was not enough and had to buy new ones with better resistance.

Can you use normal earbuds in wet ears?

Although it’s not advised to use normal earbuds in wet ears, you can use them to some extent. By ‘normal’ I assume you are talking about earbuds that have no IP protection. It’s fine if you don’t do it too often. A little bit of moisture will not do any harm as long as you dry it off quickly.

If you put them in accidentally, then let them dry completely before you use them again. Although most manufacturers factor all this in while designing the earbuds, try to keep them as dry as possible.

What to do if your earbuds get wet?

You should immediately unpair them to avoid any further electrical damage. You can air dry them, use a hair blower or a desiccant to speed up the process. Do not use them until they are completely dry. It’s best to leave them earbuds for at least 2-3 hours before you start using them once again.

Here are a few steps you can follow to get rid of water in your earbuds:

1. Unpair your earbuds.

2. Do not place them in the charging case.

3. Place them on a newspaper and leave them out in the open to dry by themselves.

4. If the water damage is severe, remove the rubber padding (if any) and take a hairdryer directly to the speaker grill. Do not overdo it. 1-2 minutes should be enough.

5. Then take a bowl and place some newspaper in it. Now add a desiccant into the bowl and place your earbuds in them. Leave it for at least 3-4 hours. Using the air dryer usually does the trick, but I tend to throw in the desiccant just to be safe.

How to dry your earbuds regularly after using them with wet ears?

The best way to dry earbuds regularly is to leave them in a jar filled with desiccants right after finishing your workouts. Using the hairdryer may seem more productive, but applying heat continuously can damage the circuit or the internal batteries.

I mostly keep a jar by the door containing a small desiccant pouch. When I return from my morning workout, I simply drop the earbuds and cover them with a lid. It stays there while I freshen up, finish my breakfast and get ready for work.

I have been on this routine for a couple of months without any issues. Although my earbuds are water-resistant, I like to play it safe so that I get the most out of them. 

F.A.Q.

Can I wear earbuds after showering while my hair is still damp?

Yes, you can wear earbuds after showering while your hair is still damp. Damp hair does not contain enough moisture to do any serious damage and most earbuds have basic level protection. However, it’s best to use them after you have completely dried out your hair.

If I have water in my ears, is it safe to listen to music through my in-ear earbuds? Or will they short out?

If your earbuds have the required IP rating you can insert them without problems. If you’re not sure about the IP rating, then it might be a good idea to dry your ears completely and then insert the earbuds, because there is a chance that it might short out.

What happens to your ears when you wear earbuds while your ears are still wet?

If your ear is too wet, then the water might get blocked by the earbuds, which can lead to ear infections. Therefore, it’s best to use earbuds after you have completely dried out your ear canal. In case of showers or rains, dry yourself and wait a while before putting in your earbuds.

Conclusion

Some people call me paranoid because of my overprotective nature. I love music and although the earbuds I buy are protected against water and dust damage, I tend not to abuse them. I try to keep them as dry as possible to ensure I can enjoy the best possible sound quality I can during my time using these devices. 

So using your earbuds with wet ears may not cause immediate damage, but there is still a possibility. Whether you want to bet on it or take the safe route is up to you. However, with the imminent global semiconductor shortage, I would try to preserve electronics for as long as possible. Good luck!

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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