Protecting Hearables from Moisture, Sweat, and Other Threats

Mallory McGuinness | May 20, 2020

When hearables began to enter the mainstream, the world marveled at the idea of intelligent headphones that could perform perfectly without a cord, cable, or neckband. Now, hearable devices are a staple of the consumer electronics market, with 230 million units expected to be sold by year’s end.

These days, products can complete complex tasks, but if the device you are designing can’t perform even the most basic function reliably, your product will fall upon deaf ears. And for hearables, nothing hinders reliability like moisture.

Why do Earphones Stop Working?

Hearable products typically contain speakers, Bluetooth components, sensors, and microphones – hardware components that can be damaged because of liquid exposure. When the device you design encounters sweat, condensation, or moisture, it can start acting unpredictably.

  • Electrical connections can become corroded, creating unwanted static or crackling sounds in your customers’ ears.
  • Liquid-damaged connections can cause sound distortions or fluctuations in volume.
  • Corroded components may lead to intermittent outages where your product suddenly turns off, then randomly turns back on.

Because consumers expect the products they purchase to work as expected, manufacturers publish IP ratings for their devices for them to use as a measuring stick for water-resistance, but this solution is far from failsafe.

IP Ratings Measure Water-Resistance in the Lab, not Life

IP ratings specify how protected a hearable is against liquids entering and damaging the device. Consumers who work outdoors, travel in the cold, jog in humidity and rain, or who enjoy sweaty physical activity will naturally want highly rated products.

The problem is that ratings are assigned in laboratories. Testing is conducted with “clean” water, not snow, rain, or sweat. So, although IP ratings can be useful as a point of reference, a high IP rating does not guarantee liquid protection in the real world.

one phone underwater that is still working because of HZO protection and another that is dead because of water damage

And for hearables, nothing hinders reliability like moisture.

How to Protect Your Headphones

Electronics shouldn’t stop working because of simple exposure to rain, salt, humidity, or sweat, but for many hearable products, this outcome is an unfortunate reality. In the industry, the genuine lack of reliability might be due to a perceived lack of options. Heavy enclosures are not suitable for hearables, and even traditional conformal coating can add weight and bulk to these miniaturized devices.

However, it is possible to produce a product that will remain steadfast in the wake of sports activity, swimming, rain, and saltwater. If your goal as a manufacturer or designer is to reduce costs associated with returns or repairs or to encourage more purchases with a product that stands out, protective coatings from HZO can life-proof your device.

Our Spectrum of Protection™ suite of coating solutions can meet the most diverse, product-specific requirements. Rather than casting a wide net with a one-size-fits-all solution, we focus on innovating solutions based on customer needs.

If you want to be an industry leader with unparalleled waterproof protection, we can deliver. If you’d rather be a trailblazer that exceeds industry-standard IP ratings, we can create the path. No matter what the objective, we are here to protect what matters most to you, on your terms, so your device can run on life’s terms. Contact us today to learn more.


However, it is possible to produce a product that will remain steadfast in the wake of sports activity, swimming, rain, and saltwater.

Mallory McGuinness

Mallory is an electronics protection evangelist who writes content for HZO. In her free time she is reading non-fiction, and hanging out with her beta fish, King Awesome.

Ryan Moore

Ryan is a 9-year veteran to the world of protecting electronics from harsh environments and a lover of all things technology.

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