Relaxing in a sauna or steam room can be an exhilarating experience. However, unless you always go in with a few friends, or visit one where you’re a regular and bound to know a few friendly faces, the 15-20-minute session can be a tad boring. Listening to music or talk shows over your headphones is one of the best ways to cure boredom, but should you?
You can’t bring headphones into a sauna or steam room unless the manufacturers designed the headphones to withstand high temperatures, moisture, and sweat. The vast majority of headphones will malfunction if exposed to the sauna or steam room environment because of condensation including those with an IPX rating lower than 7.
The rest of the article will take a closer look at the reasons why you should leave your headphones (and indeed all electronics) at the door when visiting a sauna or a steam room.
What Are Steam Rooms and Saunas?
Steam rooms and saunas are enclosures that aim for the same result: heat your body well enough to sweat out toxins, burn calories, de-stress, and more. Both of them are similar, but the major difference is the kind of heat that they provide. A sauna exudes dry heat from a closed stove or hot rocks while a steam room’s heat comes from boiling water.
The heat and moisture in both enclosures make them a harsh environment for all electronic devices, including phones, media players (like iPods), and headphones.
Some people suggest wrapping up the smartphone that will be the source of your music (or podcast) in a wet towel if it’s water-resistant to help it withstand the environment. There’s no guarantee that this approach will work, as a water-resistant rating isn’t the same as a waterproof rating.
However, even if it works, you still have to think about your headphones. You obviously can’t use them while wrapped up in small towels, so what should you do? The best decision is to leave the headphones outside. Using most headphones in such an environment won’t end well most of the time for the reasons you’ll see in the next section.
Why You Shouldn’t Use a Headphone in a Sauna or a Steam Room
Some of the reasons why your headphones shouldn’t go into a steam room or sauna are covered below.
Battery-Powered Headphones Can Explode
All wireless headphones won’t work without the batteries. Therefore, using them in extreme heat and humidity is dangerous as most batteries will explode in such conditions. Apart from damaging the headphones, you’re at risk when the headphones are in or over your ears.
The heat in saunas and steam rooms can reach as high as 195°F (90°C), while batteries aren’t supposed to be exposed to temperatures above 140°F (60°C). Assuming the batteries in your headphones don’t explode, there’s no telling how the high temperature can affect the battery life going forward.
The Headphones May Be Designed to Shut Down
The decision on whether you can use headphones in a sauna or steam room may have been made for you straight out of the box, as some of them come with an automatic shutdown function. That is triggered when the headphones are in an excessively hot or humid environment.
Such headphones will stop working less than five minutes into your sauna or steam room session and will only start working again when you’re in a more comfortable environment. Again, this is a function you’ll find in headphones with batteries.
Many brands adopt this technology, but if yours doesn’t have it, it means they expect you to know better than using your headphones in environments like steam rooms and saunas.
High IPX Rating Doesn’t Protect Against Condensation
If you’re conversant with IPX ratings, then you probably know that headphones with an IPX7 rating are regarded as waterproof. However, exposing the headphones to a very hot and humid environment can lead to condensation—which can damage the drivers in it.
The openings created for the speakers and microphones on your headphones are the loopholes through which condensation can enter.
If your headphones are old or have a lower rating than IPX7, the risk of condensation-induced damage is a lot higher—and as you’ll probably find out later, your manufacturer warranty won’t cover for such damage. Once the moisture sensors have been triggered, you’ll most likely lose the warranty cover for most of the major brands.
Mold and Bacteria Thrive Under Such Conditions
Any headphones used regularly without cleaning will slowly build up bacteria and mold. In a hot and humid environment, the bacteria will multiply really quickly, especially if the headphones have favorable coverings for their growth.
Such growth is dangerous for three reasons:
- It can damage your headphones.
- The coverings might develop an uncomfortable smell.
- You are at risk of developing an ear infection if some of the bacteria get into your ear canal.
Other Reasons to Leave Your Headphones Outside the Sauna or Steam Room
There are two other reasons why you shouldn’t bring headphones into the sauna or steam room. Firstly, saunas or steam rooms are typically known for their tranquility. Trying to relax with music might alter the balance.
Secondly, other people in the sauna or steam room may see you as disrespectful if you’ve got headphones on while in there with them. This is because many people are used to small chat in these rooms. You could even be courting a confrontation if your headphones are such that someone sitting close by can hear the music. Your music tastes are most definitely not universal!
These reasons have nothing to do with the headphones directly, but ignoring them can lead to a poor experience for everyone involved.
Best Headphones to Use in a Sauna or Steam Room
If you’re still bent on bringing your music along with you while at the sauna or steam room, your best bet is to find headphones designed for such environments. There aren’t many of them around, but we’ve selected a few you can try.
The manufacturer clearly warns against using this Jabra model in a steam room or sauna. But some people have gone and against that warning (according to reviews) without any issues. If you’re willing to risk voiding your warranty, you can get one of these.
Aftershokz is the only manufacturer that clearly supports using their headphones in a sauna. The Air Open-Ear and Titanium models are rated for use in a sauna. For example, the titanium material means that the headphones won’t heat up quite as easily as other headphone materials.
However, for a steam room, you’re better off with the Aeropex model, which has an IP rating of 67. It comes with a moisture detection system, which means it will warn you when the headphones are at risk of water damage—instead of just going off like other models. The Xtrainerz model is another Aftershokz model you can also use in a sauna or steam room, and according to reviews, it has the best sound quality among them all.
Bringing headphones into a sauna or steam room is not recommended. There’s a high chance that the 15-minute session will damage your headphones. Do you love your music to the point of risking the loss of a few hundred dollars instead of spending a short time in quiet?
Remember, manufacturer warranties most likely won’t cover the damage caused by a sauna or steam room. So, you should probably leave your headphones (and all other electronics) at the reception and focus on relaxing and reaping all the benefits of a steam room or sauna session.