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, books, or podcasts with your headphones is one of the best ways to cure boredom, but should you?
In general, you should not bring headphones into a traditional dry sauna because they are not designed to operate at typical sauna temperatures (between 180-220º F) and could automatically shut down or be permanently damaged. However, you can some headphones into an infrared sauna, and you can bring headphones with an IPX rating of IPX7 (IP67) or higher should be safe in a steam room.
Essentially, heat is really the biggest issue when it comes to bringing headphones into a traditional sauna with humidity or moisture being the primary factor in a steam room. Because infrared saunas use relatively low heat and no moisture, some headphones will be safe to use in that environment.
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.
Can you wear headphones in a sauna?
I would love to say that there is some magic answer here, but honestly, there isn’t.
In most cases, headphones are not designed to operate in the extreme heat and humidity found inside traditional saunas and steam rooms. In some cases, you can bring your headphones into an infrared sauna but you’ll need to know the temperatures involved to ensure that they are within the manufacturer’s specifications (typically below 110°F).
But, let’s dig into some details and explain exactly why headphones and saunas don’t mix.
Can you wear headphones in a traditional sauna?
In a traditional sauna, where temperatures can reach 160-200°F (70-90°C) and the humidity is relatively low, you may be tempted to wear headphones to enjoy some music or a podcast. However, this is not recommended for several reasons:
- Heat damage: High temperatures can cause damage to your headphones, especially if they are not specifically designed for high-temperature environments.
- Sweat damage: Excessive sweating can also damage your headphones, especially if they are not waterproof or water-resistant.
- Safety concerns: Wearing headphones may block out important sounds or warnings in the sauna, making it difficult to react quickly in case of an emergency.
Can you wear headphones in an infrared sauna?
In an infrared sauna, temperatures are generally lower, ranging from 110-130°F (45-55°C), with a focused heat source generated by infrared panels. While this may seem like a more suitable environment for wearing headphones, the same concerns mentioned for traditional saunas still apply:
- Heat and sweat damage: Even at lower temperatures, your headphones can still be damaged from heat and sweat.
- Safety concerns: Wearing headphones while in an infrared sauna can still obstruct important sounds or warnings.
Can you wear headphones in a steam room?
Steam rooms are characterized by very high humidity and temperatures around 110-120°F (45-50°C). Wearing headphones in a steam room is definitely not a good idea because:
- Moisture damage: The high humidity can cause your headphones to malfunction or become permanently damaged.
- Safety concerns: Wearing headphones in a steam room may increase the risk of missing important sounds or warnings, similar to the concerns in saunas.
How does heat affect headphones?
Heat can have a variety of negative impacts on headphones, affecting both their performance and longevity. Here’s a breakdown of how heat can affect different components and aspects of headphones:
- Battery Life: For wireless headphones, heat can significantly reduce battery life and overall battery longevity. Extreme heat can also pose a risk of battery leakage or even explosion in very rare cases.
- Circuitry: High temperatures can negatively affect the electrical circuits, leading to malfunctions or permanent damage.
- Sound Quality: Excessive heat can cause degradation in sound quality by affecting the internal electronics, including the drivers that produce sound.
- Material Warping: Many headphones are made from materials like plastic, which can warp or melt when exposed to extreme heat. Even metal parts could expand, causing misalignment in the headphone structure.
- Glue Melting: The adhesives used to hold different parts of the headphones together may melt or become less effective, causing parts to loosen or fall off.
- Driver Damage: Excessive heat can affect the performance and longevity of the drivers in the headphones, potentially leading to distorted sound.
- Ear Cushions/Pads: The material used for ear cushions may degrade more quickly when exposed to heat, becoming cracked or discolored.
- Cable Insulation: Heat can cause the insulation material around the headphone cables to melt or degrade, exposing the wires and making them more prone to damage.
Storage and Usage
- Storage: Storing headphones in a hot environment, like the glove compartment of a car in summer, can accelerate wear and tear and reduce their lifespan.
- Comfort: Heat can also affect user comfort, making the headphones less pleasant to wear due to factors like increased sweating around the ear cups.
How does moisture affect headphones?
Moisture can significantly impact the performance, longevity, and safety of headphones.
- Short Circuits: Excessive moisture can create electrical shorts, causing the headphones to malfunction or even become inoperable.
- Battery Damage: For wireless headphones, moisture can seep into the battery compartment, potentially causing the battery to fail or degrade more quickly.
- Sound Quality: Moisture can interfere with the electrical pathways, affecting sound quality, causing static or intermittent loss of audio.
- Driver Damage: The drivers in headphones are responsible for creating sound. Moisture can cause these components to deteriorate over time, affecting sound quality.
- Button Malfunction: Physical controls may start to malfunction if moisture seeps into the gaps.
- Corrosion: Moisture can lead to corrosion of metal components, which can affect both the structural integrity and electrical connections.
- Ear Pads: Moisture can make ear pads uncomfortable to wear, degrade the material, and promote the growth of bacteria and fungi.
- Cables: If not properly insulated, moisture can degrade the wiring over time, affecting audio quality and overall functionality.
- Electrical Hazards: Although rare, moisture seeping into electrical components can pose a risk of electrical shock.
- Adhesive Breakdown: Moisture can break down the adhesives used in headphone construction, making them less durable.
- Accumulated Debris: Moist environments can cause debris to stick more readily to your headphones, which could eventually impede functionality.
What is the IP (Ingress Protection) standard?
The IP (Ingress Protection) and IPX standards are commonly used to describe the level of environmental protection provided by electrical enclosures, including those used in consumer electronics like smartphones and smartwatches.
IP ratings are defined by the international standard IEC 60529, and they describe the degree to which a product is protected against dust, water, and accidental contact. IPX ratings focus specifically on the level of water resistance.
Note that IPX ratings are a subset of the broader IP rating system.
An IP rating consists of two digits:
- The first digit describes protection against solid objects or materials (e.g., dust).
- The second digit describes protection against liquids (e.g., water).
For example, IP68:
- The “6” denotes that the device is dust-tight.
- The “8” denotes that the device can be submerged in water beyond 1 meter depth, under conditions specified by the manufacturer.
IP First Digit (Solids)
- 0: No protection
- 1: Protection against objects >50mm
- 2: Protection against objects >12.5mm
- 3: Protection against objects >2.5mm
- 4: Protection against objects >1mm
- 5: Dust-protected
- 6: Dust-tight
IP Second Digit (Liquids)
- 0: No protection
- 1: Protection against dripping water
- 2: Protection against dripping water when tilted up to 15°
- 3: Protection against spraying water
- 4: Protection against splashing water
- 5: Protection against water jets
- 6: Protection against powerful water jets
- 7: Protection against immersion up to 1m
- 8: Protection against immersion beyond 1m (conditions specified by the manufacturer)
When you see an IPX rating, it focuses solely on the level of water resistance, ignoring the rating for protection against solids. For example, IPX7 indicates the device is protected against immersion in water up to 1 meter.
Helpful chart to explain the IP and IPX rating system
|Protection against objects >1mm
|Protection against splashing water
|Protection against water jets
|Protection against powerful water jets
|Protection against immersion up to 1m
|Protection against prolonged immersion beyond 1m
|Protection against splashing water
|Protection against immersion up to 1m
|Protection against prolonged immersion beyond 1m
These ratings help consumers and businesses understand the level of protection offered by a device. However, it’s crucial to consult the manufacturer’s documentation for specific conditions and limitations.
Will using headphones in the sauna void the manufacturer’s warranty?
Using headphones in a sauna is very likely to void the manufacturer’s warranty unless the headphones are specifically designed and rated for such high-heat and high-humidity environments.
But, most consumer headphones are not designed to withstand the extreme conditions found in a sauna, which include not just high temperatures but also high humidity. Manufacturers typically include clauses in their warranties that exclude coverage for damage due to “improper use,” which using headphones in a sauna would likely qualify as.
Even if the headphones have a high IP (Ingress Protection) rating for water and dust resistance, the high heat and steam present in a sauna goes beyond the conditions they are generally tested and rated for.
If you are considering using headphones in such an environment, it’s essential to:
- Check the Warranty Terms: Read the fine print of the manufacturer’s warranty to see what conditions or uses may void the warranty.
- Check the Product Rating: Look for any IP or other environmental durability ratings the product may have. Note that even high IP ratings usually do not account for the high heat and humidity found in a sauna.
- Consult Manufacturer Guidelines: Look for any manufacturer guidelines or FAQs that might specifically mention use in high-temperature or high-humidity environments.
- Contact Customer Support: When in doubt, reach out to the manufacturer’s customer support to clarify whether using the product in a sauna would void the warranty.
Given the risks involved, it’s generally not advisable to use standard consumer headphones in a sauna. Instead, you might want to look into specialized audio equipment designed for such conditions, although these are relatively rare and may not offer the same audio quality as traditional headphones.
What are the best headphones to use in a sauna?
While it isn’t recommended to use headphones in the sauna at all, there are a couple of things you could try.
Bone conduction headphones
Some users find bone-conduction headphones to be more resistant to heat and moisture compared to traditional over-ear or in-ear headphones.
These headphones transmit sound through the bones in your skull, so they don’t need to be inserted into your ears or cover them, which can be advantageous in a sweaty environment like a sauna. Still, check the manufacturer’s guidelines for heat resistance before making a purchase.
Water-resistant and heat-resistant models
Very few headphones are designed to withstand the high heat of a sauna, but some models are more durable and water-resistant.
Look for headphones with high IP ratings (e.g., IPX7 or IPX8). However, keep in mind that an IP rating alone doesn’t make headphones suitable for sauna use; the rating usually applies to water resistance, not heat resistance.
If you are not overly concerned about audio quality, you might opt for a cheap pair of disposable earphones. Since these are low-cost, it won’t be a significant loss if they get damaged.
What are the best alternatives to using headphones in a sauna?
If you’re looking to enjoy music, podcasts, or other audio content while in a sauna, using headphones might not be the best idea due to the heat and humidity. However, there are some alternative options you might consider:
Place a water-resistant, heat-resistant Bluetooth speaker near the sauna, but not directly inside to avoid damaging the speaker.
Built-in Sauna audio systems
Some modern saunas come equipped with built-in audio systems that are designed to withstand the heat and humidity.
If you own the sauna, you might consider installing permanent water-resistant and heat-resistant speakers. Make sure they are designed for high-humidity and high-temperature environments.
Phone or device outside the sauna
You can leave your phone or audio device outside the sauna and turn up the volume so that you can still hear it while inside. This eliminates the risk of damaging your device, although it may not provide the best audio experience.
Meditation or silence
Sometimes, the sauna experience is best enjoyed in silence or while meditating. This not only eliminates the risk of damaging electronic devices but also can enhance the relaxing experience of the sauna itself.
Pre-recorded or streamed guided sauna sessions
Some people opt for guided sessions that are pre-recorded and can be played on a durable external speaker. This could include meditation guides, breathing exercises, or even educational talks designed to be enjoyed while you relax.
If you’re not picky about what you’re listening to, a battery-operated water-resistant radio placed outside the sauna could be an old-school solution.
Remember to always consult the manufacturer’s guidelines or customer support before taking any electronic device into a high-heat, high-humidity environment like a sauna. Most consumer electronics are not designed for such conditions and could be damaged, posing both a financial risk and a safety hazard.