True wireless earbuds have grown massively popular in just the last few years, and the market is projected to continue growing exponentially into the future. One big reason for this is their versatility – TWS (true wireless stereo) earbuds can be conveniently used in all kinds of places and contexts that traditional wired headphones cannot be. And yes, that does indeed include while in the shower.
So, the short answer to the main question is: Yes, it is possible take a shower while listening to a pair of true wireless earbuds. However, not all true wireless can be used in the shower, or while partaking in other water based activities for that matter, because they don’t have the minimum necessary water resistance and/or they don’t have good enough usability.
I’m going to expound on all of this, and explain how to pick a pair of shower friendly earbuds for those who want to rock out while they… wash out. Right. Ok. Anyway…
The Ingress Protection (IP) Code: The Current Standard For Water and Debris Resistance With Electronic Devices
True wireless earbuds currently come with varying levels of water resistance, which is primarily indicated by their official IP rating. The IP rating format is IPXX, where the first X digit indicates the level of resistance against ingress of dust and debris, and the second X digit indicates the level of resistance against ingress of water. Each digit runs on an upward scale, corresponding with increasing levels of protection, briefly summarized as follows:
|Level of Protection
|dripping water from above
|dripping water while tilted
|direct spraying water
|direct splashing water
|direct jets of water
|direct powerful jets of water
|full immersion up to 1 meter
|full immersion further than 1 meter, for longer
|powerful, high temperature jets of water
Most true wireless earbuds sold in 2023 have an IP code of around IPX4 or IPX5 and have some level of moisture/water resistance, since most people want to be able to use them while exercising or while outside in potentially inclement weather for example. There are also some earbuds that have IPX8 certification and are full immersion waterproof.
On a bit of a digression, most true wireless earbuds have a penultimate “X” placeholder in their IP code, meaning there’s no certification against ingress of dust or debris, but there are some so called double digit IP coded earbuds that do have certified resistance against water and dust if you think you need that. The popular Jabra Elite series earbuds (affiliate link) have an IP57 code for example and are dust resistant and waterproof.
FAQ: What is the minimum IP Code a pair of wireless earbuds needs to be used in the shower?
Answer: A pair of earbuds that is IPX7 or higher is ideal because it’s fully waterproof, but as long as a pair of wireless earbuds has an IP code of at least IPX4 – water resistance up to splashing – it is most likely OK to use in the shower.
If you’re not sure, you can always consult a product manual, which will usually outline what the company considers “misuse,” in other words actions that are not covered under the warranty if they result in breakage.
A Really Solid Fit and Seal Is Important
A good fit and a proper seal is essential for any pair of earbuds, and this is especially important for active and/or water based use.
A light and shallow fit might be fine if you’re just sitting and working at a desk, but, if you’re moving around and getting splashed with water, you’re probably going to need a deeper and firmer fit to keep any earbuds in place with a proper seal maintained.
Go with non-stemmed earbuds
Stemmed ovoid earbuds are a common and popular design, but I would generally recommend against this type of earbud if you want to be able to use them in the shower.
Rather, a more traditional monitor style non-stemmed design with a deeper and firmer fit is ideal for use in the shower, for a few reasons:
- It’s less likely to lose the seal or totally fall out as you move around.
- It will isolate and attenuate external noise better – showers are pretty loud.
- It will keep water out of your ear canals better, and help prevent water from getting trapped in there.
Go for silicone tips
Most modern earbuds come with silicone tips anyhow, but sometimes they come with foam or rubber tips, and while those each do have good situational use, they are not ideal when dealing with any kind of moisture. Silicone tips wick water and will stay properly flush with your ear canal, thus preserving the fit, seal, and sound quality.
Consider ear hooks or wing tips for additional fit security
Ear hooks wrap behind the ear, and wing tips anchor into the upper crevice of the ear called the antihelix. Some earbuds are designed to hold wing tips and ear hooks in addition to the regular tips that insert into your ear, and some even have them built in. There are also other separately sold earhooks and wing tips that can attach to earbuds, but finding something separate that works can be hit or miss since earbuds come in all sorts of specific shapes and sizes.
Easy Usability and Full Onboard Controls
A pair of wireless earbuds can sound absolutely amazing, but if they’re not comfortable or they’re a pain to use then most people would agree it doesn’t even matter.
Easy usability and a comprehensive onboard control schematic are essential aspects of a good overall pair of true wireless earbuds, and this becomes especially true in specific situations, like wanting to listen to them in the shower.
I would say a “complete” onboard control schematic is required for any pair of earbuds you want to use in the shower. Reason being: you’re not going to take whatever source is playing your music, like your phone or computer, in there with you, so you’re only going to be able to control things with the earbuds themselves.
What is a “complete” control schematic? In includes all of the following in my opinion:
- a pause/play function
- a volume up/down function
- a forward tracking function
- a reset/backtrack function
- a decline call function (please don’t take a phone call in the shower)
Most TWS earbuds in 2023 have these onboard commands, but you might be surprised to learn that a lot still do not. If you can just do a missing command on your device instead, that might not be a big deal for some people, but if you can’t do that while you’re in the shower, not being able to skip a song for example would be quite annoying.
You also should decide if you want button based controls vs touch based controls. Most TWS earbuds in 2023 are touch based, and while touch based controls should still work when things are wet – provided the product has a high enough IP code as we discussed – they might get a little finnicky or less reliable.
There are a lot of really solid earbuds that have button based controls if you want them, and some people might prefer that.
Is It Safe to Wear True Wireless Earbuds in the Shower?
A lot of people generally understand that electricity and water can be a dangerous combination, and that electronics and water generally don’t mix. Add to that using a device like a wireless earbud that’s nestled right inside your ear canal, and people might understandably be nervous that using wireless earbuds in the shower is not safe. But what’s the actual truth? I dug into some data to find out.
What about the lithium ion batteries?
Pretty much all true wireless earbuds in 2023, like most portable electronic devices, use lithium ion batteries. You may have heard of horror stories of these batteries exploding or catching fire, and the thought of that happening right in your ear can definitely cause trepidation.
But the truth is that such catastrophic failures are exceptionally rare – this insurance company claims the odds you’ll experience a lithium ion battery fire are about 1 in 10 million, while this report from the US EPA claims the failure rate of lithium ion batteries that aren’t improperly used is less than one in a million and are “quite safe.”
Consumer electronics from name brands are subject to strict regulation and scrutiny. So, as long as you don’t buy a knock off product (which will likely sound terribly anyhow) and don’t misuse the product (proper use is always clearly defined in any product manual), the odds of sustaining injury from a lithium ion battery failure from an electronic device like true wireless earbuds is astronomically low.
Could I get electrically shocked?
Practically speaking? No, because the actual amount of electrical power it takes to drive an earbud is miniscule. In fact, touching a live speaker wire, which will drive like 1000 times more power, is not even likely to give you a shock that you could even feel.
What about trapped water and swimmers ear?
Also very unlikely in my opinion, since a proper seal from a waterproof earbud is designed to completely keep water out to begin with.
Make Sure the Warranty is Solid
Almost all half decent earbuds, even the cheapest one, come with at least a one year limited warranty. Some companies like Soundcore or JLab for example have longer warranties which might be appealing to some. Just make sure that whatever product you choose has a warranty that covers potential water damage – and most IPX4+ earbuds do and should.
What Are The Best Wireless Earbuds for Wearing While Showering?
There are a lot of potentially solid options, and “best” does become somewhat subjective when you get into sound style – a whole new can of worms – but there is definitely one product that I would personally recommend:
JLab Go Air Sport
The Go Air Sport is basically an active/sport oriented adaptation of the Go Air Pop, which is one of the best overall budget wireless earbuds in my opinion, and the Go Air Sport has just about every good feature discussed herein for making an earbud great for the shower: a nice firm fit, sturdy built in earhooks, double digit IP55 water and dust resistance, an industry leading two year warranty, and a complete onboard control schematic – all for a very low competitive price.