You may be wondering if you can enhance your sauna experience with music by bringing your headphones into the sauna. You should resist the urge to do so, though, because saunas will ruin headphones. Whether they’re wired, Bluetooth, earbuds like AirPods, or over-the-ear devices, headphones aren’t made to withstand the high heat and humidity of the sauna room.
You should not use any type of headphones in a sauna. The excessive heat can fry them, while moisture can short-circuit or damage them by causing rust, mold, and bacteria growth. Specialized headphones, like AfterShokz, may withstand some sauna use, but ditching them can make a more relaxing sauna experience.
Electronic devices, including headphones, and saunas are a dangerous combination. Here we’ll explore exactly why you shouldn’t use headphones in the sauna, and a few types and tips to try if you want to do so. Let’s start by looking at how the intense heat of a sauna can affect electronics.
How Do Saunas Affect Electronics?
Because headphones are a type of electronic device, it’s helpful to know a bit about how saunas affect electronics overall. It’s also important to know the basics of sauna operation so that the general rule of “headphones and saunas don’t mix” makes a little more sense.
Saunas are great for the human body and offer countless benefits. Saunas work their magic through their high heat. A traditional sauna’s temperature ranges from about 180-195 degrees Fahrenheit (78-90 degrees Celsius), while an infrared sauna reaches temps of 100 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit (38-66 degrees Celsius). The human body has a natural cooling element that kicks in when in such situations, so we don’t overheat—sweating.
As long as you follow basic sauna safety guidelines, such as staying hydrated and not staying in too long (more on that in our separate article here), you’re not likely to overheat and fry your insides. You’re also pretty waterproof. Sauna moisture and sweat don’t trickle into you, and if they happen to run into your eyes or mouth, you’re designed to handle it and won’t short-circuit.
Electronic devices sadly lack the built-in safety measures that you, as a human, have. They’re more vulnerable to damage and destruction due to high heat and moisture, the very elements that are key for a sauna. When an electronic device such as a phone, laptop, smartphone, smartwatch, or mp3 player overheats or is exposed to moisture, it can become damaged, sometimes beyond repair.
The high temperatures and humidity of saunas are damaging to all electronic devices. Even dry saunas are off-limits because of their heat and possible exposure to your moisture from perspiration.
Because headphones are electronic devices, they are susceptible to heat and humidity, making them pretty much unusable in the sauna. So you don’t have to test it for yourself to see what will happen to your expensive headphones or earbuds in these places, let’s take a look at how exactly saunas affect headphones.
How Do Saunas Effect Various Types of Headphones?
“Headphone” is a very broad term encompassing many different types of devices that deliver personal sound directly to your ears. The different types of headphones we’re referring to here are:
- Over-ear headphones: These are fairly big and cover your entire ear.
- On-ear headphones: Smaller than their over-ear counterparts, these rest on top of your ear.
- In-ear headphones: Also called canalphones, these are inserted into your ear canal and deliver sound very close to your eardrum.
- Ear buds: Rather than sliding into your ear canal, these just rest on your outer ear.
- Open-back: This refers to the style of the outer ear cups; in this case, the back of the cup isn’t fully enclosed to allow some sounds to enter and escape.
- Closed-back: Here, the back of the cup is fully sealed for better noise reduction.
- Noise-cancelling: These closed-back headphones have additional technology that detects and cancels out external sound frequencies.
- Bluetooth: Also called wireless headphones, these devices are battery-powered and connect to your other electronic devices via a computer chip rather than a traditional cord or wire.
- Honorable Mention: Bone conduction – the model we’ll discuss later as a great sauna option – the Aeropex AfterShokz (on Amazon) techcnially get their own categry here since they work through bone conduction, unlike any of the other styles of headphoens above.
While there are many different types of headphones, when it comes to the sauna, all headphones are equal. With very few exceptions, headphones, whether they’re wired or wireless, resting outside or inside your ear, are typically not built to withstand the high heat and moist or sweaty environment of the sauna.
Headphones Hate Heat
Simply put, heat can fry your headphones. Some headphones will shut down before overheating, annoyingly disrupting your music flow. Others may warn you that they’re about to overheat. Still, others might simply operate until they overheat and break.
Bluetooth headphones are an exceptionally bad idea inside a sauna. Not only are they in danger of destruction, you, too are also in danger of pretty serious damage if you’re wearing them when the battery finally overheats. Most wireless headphones are powered by lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries may explode when they overheat, putting you at risk of serious burns, contusions, and lacerations.
While it might be tempting to simply use a wired headset inside a sauna, those wired headphones are connected to a different electronic device, such as your phone, that cannot withstand the heat. Even if you tried somehow to keep this device cool, your headphones would be subjected to the other detrimental component of the sauna: moisture.
Moisture Causes Mayhem for Headphones
Most headphones cannot get wet, whether that’s from being dropped in a pool, having water spilled over them, or being exposed to excessive sweat or humid sauna air.
Even those headphones labeled as water-resistant are unable to tolerate the excessive moisture levels, whether steam or sweat, of the sauna environment. Furthermore, metal parts inside the headphones or earbuds can rust and stop functioning if they are exposed to even small droplets of moisture.
Moisture in the form of humidity or perspiration can work its way inside your headphones by seeping through the small speaker and microphone holes. This moisture will short-circuit your headphones as well as cause any metal components to rust.
An electronic device’s ability to hold up to some moisture is indicated by its IPX rating. This refers to International Protection or Ingress Protection. The “X” stands for the numerical rating. (Note that sometimes you’ll see multiple numbers, representing both dust/particle and water resistance.)
The lower the number, the less able the device is to handle moisture. Headphones designated as IP5 or IP6 are considered water-resistant, which is still not high enough to withstand a very humid and sweaty sauna room.
If headphones are labeled IP7 or higher, they are considered fully waterproof. In theory, you could take them into the sauna without worrying about perspiration or water particles working their way into them. However, recall that saunas are hot. Even an IP7 headset can’t withstand the heat and will fry.
Other Problems Saunas Cause for Headphones
Sauna heat and humidity plus human sweat combine to damage headphones in yet another way. Headphones can become disgustingly, dangerously dirty from sauna use. The environment is a hotbed for mold and bacteria growth, which love to breed and grow on the leather casing surrounding the ear cups. These toxic microorganisms can also grow on earbuds and canalphones, too.
Bacteria and mold are unsightly and stinky and are usually also bad for your health. Unclean headphones and earbuds are often linked to ear infections.
Additionally, sauna damage isn’t covered by typical headphone warranties. Many brands, such as Apple, specifically state that their products aren’t for use in saunas. Others don’t specify this, but the language of the warranty clarifies that destruction via heat and moisture voids the warranty.
What Headphones Could You Wear in the Sauna?
So we’ve established that as a general rule, it’s best to avoid wearing headphones in the sauna. However, if you really want to try it, look for products with:
- An IP rating of at least IP7
- Materials that don’t conduct heat very well, such as titanium
Almost no headphone manufacturer specifies that their products may be used in a sauna. The exception to this is AfterShokz. Their headphones are said to withstand sauna heat for short periods of time. They may be better in an infrared sauna than in a traditional sauna or steam room, however, because infrared saunas aren’t humid.
AfterShokz can handle some perspiration. Some AfterShokz headphones to consider for your sauna experience include the Titanium Bone Conduction Headphones (on Amazon) and the Aeropex Headphones (also on Amazon).
While other headphone brands don’t tout their products as suitable for sauna use, product specifications, as well as user reviews and reports, indicate that these models may hold up to sauna sessions when kept to a brief period:
- Jabra Elite 65t Earbuds (on Amazon)
- Bose SoundSport Free Truly Wireless Sport Headphones (on Amazon)
- Jaybird Vista Waterproof Premium Earbuds (on Amazon)
So, How Can You Listen to Music in a Sauna?
If you truly desire music as part of your relaxing sauna experience, you could experiment with different options. You might, for example, use a cheaper Bluetooth speaker inside your sauna room and pair it to a device just outside the sauna.
Another option for listening to music in the sauna is to use one of the waterproof models listed above and place your phone or mp3 player inside a waterproof case. Use caution in doing this, though, because your music player is still at risk of overheating.
You could also try using your headphones to listen to music for a very short period of time. Perhaps listen to one song (or even a guided meditation) to set the mood at the beginning of your session and then place your headphones and music player outside of the room.
A final point about avoiding using headphones in the sauna: While it’s true that heat and moisture can ruin all types of headphones, this may not be the main reason to leave them behind when you enter the sauna. Saunas are incredibly stress-relieving, in large part because they offer a quiet sanctuary away from stimulating sounds and sights.
When you allow your mind to have a complete break from processing sensory input like music, you gain even more relaxing benefits from your sauna experience. The heat causes your body to respond in ways that reduce your fight-or-flight stress response of the sympathetic nervous system and activate the rest-and-digest calming response of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Being plugged into music, even if it’s relaxing, keeps the brain and nervous system stimulated and can thus hider complete relaxation. For the life of your headphones and your own mental health and wellbeing, consider making your sauna a quiet, peaceful, electronic- and headphone-free environment.