How Do Water-resistant Headphones Work?

How Do Water-resistant Headphones Work

Before we get to the ‘How do water-resistant headphones work’ section, let us first learn some ground information regarding the topic. There are so many choices of sports headphones available in the market today and if you have to pick one out of them it can be quite a challenging task. Offering a diverse range of different features, designs, price tags, and fitting styles- the manufacturers are striving to make the headphones as convenient as possible. But, while these aspects are definitely important in a pick when you think of a sports headphone, the very first and critical aspect that comes to mind is –

“Do they have waterproofing capability?” We all know how sweaty it can get when you are working out or playing a sport. While music plays an extremely important role in boosting up the energy, keeping you motivated throughout, or setting a nice mood for relaxation, there has to be a proper medium through which you can enjoy your favorite tracks. Gone are those days when there used to be large speakers placed in the corners of the room running a fixed playlist that you need to listen to whether you like it or not. 

Is There Really Something Called ‘Waterproof Swimming Headphones’?

The headphones or the earbuds today offer much more technological innovations than you can imagine. You can listen to your own choice of tracks while you can crush on your fitness goals. And, yes… they have waterproofing capabilities so no need to worry anymore. So are we talking about all types of sports here? Yes, of course! And it includes swimming too. 

Many people, especially those who are looking for wireless earbuds swimming for the first time, are often unsure of whether waterproof swimming headphones really exist. 

There are numerous waterproof swimming headphones available today offered by different brands. The only thing that you should make a note of is, not all of them have the same water resistance capability. It varies with their design, the materials used in the construction of these earbuds, their internal components, etc. You might want to know what are earbuds used for.

Through the course of this article we are going to give you detailed information on what waterproof swimming headphones are made of, how do water-resistant headphones work, and what determines their water-repelling characteristics. While there is a complete guide on this subject waiting for you, let’s first begin with what exactly waterproof swimming headphones are

What Are Waterproof Swimming Headphones? 

Well, these headphones are pretty similar to the regular earbuds or headphones that you use otherwise. The only difference is their internal engineering- the circuits and other internal components are protected from getting damaged when exposed to water. We all know that water and electricity do not get along well, so manufacturers make these waterproof swimming headphones with the utmost care, making them extremely well-shielded, so there is no chance of even the tiniest drop of water from seeping inside. 

This means that even if you wear the headphones and dive into the water, the headphones are still going to work fine without a sign of damage. There are some special instructions from the manufacturer that you need to follow to keep them maintained after use. They sometimes also specify how long or how deep water you can go in wearing those headphones which you need to make a note of when looking for a pair of good waterproof swimming headphones. 

How Do Waterproof Headphones Work? 

The waterproofing technology in the headphones is constantly progressing and manufacturers use different methodologies to give the headphones water protective design. Among all, there are two most commonly used waterproofing technologies that will tell you ‘how do water-resistant headphones work?’  

One is the military-grade nanotechnology coating or ceramic coating given to the components. Applying this coating repels any kind of dirt, liquid, or water. It also makes the surface tough and scrape resistant, or prevents the growth of microbes. The other technology is an ultra-thin layer of chemical coating that is made with the help of plasma activation technology. This is a popular way of treating various types of surfaces as a method of protection and is widely used in different industries like automotive, electronics, and others. 

Now, if you are looking at waterproof swimming headphones, then you would obviously expect it to be water-repelling inside out. Other than the internal engineering, a manufacturer ensures that the outer body of the headphone or the earphone is given a protective build too which makes it complete. (More on how these earbuds are made a bit later).

Once the headphone is constructed and ready for use, it is then tested on an IPX rating scale for dust and water resistance to check their resistance power. It is only after this that the waterproof swimming headphones or any other water-resistant headphones are given a ‘go ahead’ for use in moisture-prone areas. 

In the next section, we are going to get into a detailed overview of IP rating systems and their importance in the headphones industry. 

What Is IPX Rating Scale, and How Does It Influence Your Purchasing Decision About Wireless Earbuds Swimming Needs? 

IPX rating is one of the easiest and the best ways to find out about your headphone’s capability of safeguarding itself from water, other liquids, and dust. In fact, this is also one of the vital elements in contributing to the concept of how do water-resistant headphones work. 

What Exactly Is the IPX Rating Scale in a Headphone? 

It is the International grade, rating, or the measure of how much a headphone can hold up against water or dust when exposed to them. This standard was created and brought into effect by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) which is now accepted and followed glocally. 

In the IPX rating scale, ‘IP’ stands for International or Ingress Protection and ‘X’ is the number or the rating given to the headphones depending on their performance on resisting water or foreign bodies. Simply speaking, the IPX rating scale follows a two-digit number system:

The First Digit in the IPX Rating

The ‘first digit’ denotes the dust protection or the level of protection against solids. The value of this rating ranges from 1 to 6, where 1 means the least ability to hold up against dust and foreign bodies and 6 being the most resistant. For example, if your headphone is IP5X rated, this means that the headphone has protection against limited dust and foreign bodies. Similarly, if your headphone is rated IP6X, then it means that it is fully protected against the entry of dust particles. Now in case, the headphone is rated IPX7, this means that it is not protected against just at all.

The Second Digit

The ‘second digit’ denotes the protection from the liquid. This value ranges from 1 to 8 and sometimes 9K where one being the lowest protection; 8 being maximum resistant. Most fitness-oriented headphones have at least an IPX6 to IPX7 on the IPX rating scale. The waterproof swimming headphones, however, are made fully waterproof with the rating of IPX7 or IPX8. In this, the IPX7 means your headphone can withstand the submersion in 1 meter deep water for about 30 minutes whereas the IPX8 rating indicates complete protection from continuous submersion in water for several hours together and the water can be 3 meters deep or more. 

On the lower side, if your headphone is indicated as IPX4 IPX rating scale, this means that it can resist water splashes of specific pressure levels from different directions. 

In very rare cases, you may see some earphones rated as IPX9K. This is the highest grade of protection that an electronic device can have where it is designed in such a way that it acquires the ability to withstand water jets that are powerful and high temperature. This is usually found in the case of bigger electronics rather than headphones. 

That said, in most cases, the maximum rating that the wireless earbuds swimming have is IPX8. For example, AfterShokz Xtrainerz Bone Conduction Headphones have a rating of IP68. Check IPX Rating Scale Chart to know more.

When you are looking for wireless earbuds for swimming, it is crucial to check the IPX rating scale. This is because, at the end of the rate, this is what determines whether the headphone you are buying has resistance to staying in the water or not. Other than this, there are a few other features that you need to consider when buying waterproof headphones.

What Are the Various Features of Waterproof Swimming Headphones? What Are Some Materials Used to Make Waterproof Headphones and Earbuds?

While the IPXrating scale is the most important feature to consider when buying a headphone for swimming, here are a few other features that go hand in hand to make the package complete and useful:


When it comes to using a headphone underwater, connectivity is yet another thing that you need to pay attention to. What’s the point of having a headphone with the highest grade of water-resistant capabilities if it doesn’t work underwater. You will find two kinds of connectivity in these types of headphones, wired and wireless. While wired headphones come paired with a waterproof MP3 that you can clip with your swimming outfit, when it comes with the wireless ones, Bluetooth signal doesn’t transmit underwater. This means that they either use an RF transmitter or bone conduction technology where the sound gets transmitted through the bones of your cheek and temple. 


Most of the waterproof swimming headphones have a call management facility other than the playback controls. This makes it easy for the swimmer to keep track or answer or reject a call at their convenience. 


The sound quality of these headphones is pretty good. They support various types of file formats like MP3, WAV, M4A which makes it pretty easy to use. The only thing is they do not support the older formats because the technology used in them is the latest. Therefore, any older formats may need to be converted first.


Most of the wireless earbuds swimming are made to last for at least 5 to 6 hours on a single charge. This means that you do not have to worry about the charge running out even if your practice session is extended for longer hours. 

Materials Used to Make Waterproof Earbuds

Other than the construction materials used to build the body of the headphones, the material of the ear tips plays an important role in ensuring safe use while maintaining the waterproofing characteristics at the same time.

Some of the most reliable and safe materials that ear tips are made of are Silicone, Foam, and Rubber.


Silicone is one of the most popular materials used in the headphones industry, especially for making eartips. Good quality silicone eartips form a good ear into the ears and keep the earphone in place. They are decently comfortable but not as good as the foam tips. However, if the material is not good then, it may just fall off when there is water or sweat in the ears. 


Rubber isn’t as safe as the other two eartip materials listed here. It offers an excellent seal into the ears keeping the earphones intact inside and has good waterproofing capabilities. However, it has a high tendency to cause skin irritation or allergies with long-term use.


Foam is considered the best material for eartips in every aspect be it proper sealing, noise isolation, and superior comfort. When you place it into the ear canal properly it can form a proper seal in the ears blocking the water away or preventing the ears from getting affected by the water pressure inside the pool. If you are in the market for a pair of noise-canceling headphones, check out our top noise canceling headphones article from here.

Just like the material, the shape, size, and type of the eartips also play an important role in ensuring that your earphones are tightly fit into the ears and don’t come off when you are underwater. The various types/shapes of eartips that are found in the water-resistant earbuds are mushroom earbuds, tree-shaped buds, egos, or fin earbuds. All these eartips are unique in their own way and are ergonomically designed to fit into the ears of different shapes and sizes and cater to different comfort preferences. 

Where the mushroom-shaped earplugs are only limited to fitness sessions because of their resistance limited to showers at times and gym sessions and not really water splashes or heavy rain, the other three tips are great for swimming. Their unique shape allows them to enter deeper inside the ear canal or form extra grip on the outer ears making them ideal for long lapse sessions. 

The only thing that is necessary here is to plug the earbuds properly to make sure there is no gap in the ear canal that can let the water in. This is about waterproof earbuds. 

What About the Full-sized Water-resistant Headphones- the Over-ear or on-ear Headphones? 

Well, we discussed earlier ‘how do water-resistant headphones work’ but we did not talk much about what the outer material of the water-resistant headsets is made of that protects them from dust and water. You may not be able to dive into the pool with these headphones, but they work well in protecting them from moisture, sweat, or rain. 

You will mostly find these water-resistant headphones made of Rexine or faux leather which is coated with PVC (polyvinyl chloride- a hard-wearing plastic polymer) or sometimes PU leather (Polyurethane leather). These fabrics encase the ear padding inside thus protecting them from getting wet or dirty. The metal frames used to support the headbands along with silicone, rubber, or leather-made headband further make these headsets water-repelling and rust-free. 

All the links or the open chambers like the buttons areas, cable joints, speaker chambers, etc. in both the headphones or the earphones are sealed with water protection sealant or adhesive to prevent it from getting into the internal components. Additionally, most of the headphones are designed to be moisture resistant or for outdoor use Mylar drivers instead of other materials. This gives additional protection and prevents the drivers from getting affected by water, dust, or any other foreign body in case they accidentally seep in. 

What is the difference between water-resistant and waterproof headphones? 

All this while, we have been talking about the waterproof swimming headphones, their water-resistance capabilities, the IPX rating scale, etc. But did you know that there is a huge difference between being water-resistant and being waterproof? Oftentimes, the headphones are generally termed as either water-resistant or waterproof irrespective of what they are. This mis-marketing from the manufacturers often confuses the customers or leads them to buy the wrong kind of headphones. 

While water-resistant headphones can resist partially against water, or liquids, but cannot get submerged in water completely, waterproof ones are fully capable of withstanding water. The latter has the ability to hold up well even when they get submerged in water. They make ideal swimming headphones because of their high resistance capability. 

Measuring on IPX rating scale- the headphones are called water-resistant if they are anything between IPX1 to IPX6 whereas they are fully waterproof if they are IPX7 or IPX8. The only difference between them is the amount of time the headphones can remain immersed in water and the depth of the water. Jaybird Vista is a great example of waterproof wireless earbuds with an IPX7 rating. The waterproof earbuds also allow you to clean the earbuds when needed which is beneficial from a hygiene standpoint. 


So now that you know “how do water-resistant headphones work?” and the importance of the IPX rating scale, you should be able to pick up the right headphone that suits your situation. One of the main things that you should remember when buying headphones is that irrespective of what the manufacturer specifies – water-resistant or waterproof, you need to check where the headphone stands on the IPX rating scale. This will help you understand its resistance capacity. That being said, there are numerous waterproof headphones available in the market that you can pick from. You might also want to know how do NFC headphones work by clicking this link.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): 

What is the minimum water-resistance needed if you want to use a headphone for swimming?

In order for a headphone to survive in a swimming pool and the water pressure under the water, it needs to have a minimum rating of IPX7 on the IPX rating scale. You can easily get IPX7or IPX8 rated headphones on various e-commerce sites.

Do all the waterproof headphones and earbuds that are IPX7 rated have dust protection as well? 

Not, necessarily. If you want to have a headphone with dust protection, then you need to make sure the headphone is tested and rated for that separately. You can find that out by looking at the first number in the IPX rating scale that indicates the amount of protection it has from dust or foreign body ingression. 

Which is the best waterproof true wireless earbuds swimming available today? 

There are many options but the best ones available today are Jaybird Vista. Kudene Wireless Earbuds isn’t a popular name when it comes to these types of headphones, but it is IPX8 rated with solid waterproofing capabilities. 

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