Serene Hearing Aid [Custom IEM] Dryer and Freshener Review
Aug 29, 2011 at 2:30 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 31

average_joe

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[size=14.0pt]Serene Hearing Aid Custom IEM Dryer and Freshener Review: Prolong the life of your custom IEMs?[/size]
 
Click pictures throughout this review for larger image
 
When a custom IEM manufacturer recommended I use a hearing aid dryer to keep my custom IEM performing at its best, I wondered what they were thinking.  No other manufacturer had recommended a hearing aid dryer to me, so is it just their model or what (it was one of the two silicone shelled custom IEMs)?  After doing some research it did seem to make sense that to ensure longevity of custom IEMs a hearing aid dryer could prolong the life as they can do for hearing aids as both use balanced armature drivers.   Although it seem more practical to protect hearing aids since they can cost several times as much as the most expensive custom IEMs. 
 
People generally don’t discuss degradation in sound over time, however I definitely have experienced it with more than one IEM in my time, but they were all dynamic drivers universal IEMs.  My guess was that it was due to moisture or a thin layer of bodily fluid (wax?) on the driver.  And there was the instance where I sold my CK10 to someone in the UK and it was "lost" at the customs office for about 2 weeks, and when the recipient finally received it he said the treble sounded distorted.  Could that have been from moisture during shipping as they worked fine when I sent them? 
 
What can moisture do to custom IEMs?  For balanced armature designs that have thin sound tubes moisture can get trapped in a sound tube and change the sound/block the sound.  How does moisture get into a sound tube?  Water wicks into small areas and then the surface tension will keep it in place.  Combine that with little air flow inside the tube so evaporation can be very slow depending on the relative humidity.  There are other alternatives such as desiccant packs, putting your IEM in rice, etc.  Moisture can also lead to hardening and/or discoloration of cables as well as corrosion of pins on detachable cable models.
 
And lets looks at usage.  If you sweat while using your IEM, are in general a sweaty person, or have lots of ear wax a dryer of some sort might prolong the life of your IEM.  Now that I have finished my review of the SA-12 I take it to the gym with me and wear the cable under my shirt.  It has a non-detachable silver cable, the kind that turns green over time with moisture, and the process has already started.  I really don't want a bright green cable.  I started using the SA-12 since my SM3 cables have started to harden after working out with them for a few weeks.
 
The question comes down to if you have spent a lot and want to protect your investment, is a hearing aid dryer something that is worth the money and will help prolong the life of your IEMs?  So, let's take a look at one of the hearing aid dryers in the market:
 
There are many hearing aid dryers on the market ranging from about $35 up to $170.  I opted to try the Serene Renew dryer & freshner model DB-100 since it is reasonably priced, offers UV sterilization, and doesn't require me to replace desiccant packs.  The DB-100 is powered by the included 12V power supply and is very compact with a hearing aid battery tester, however that isn't useful in the world of IEMs.  Serene also makes a hearing aid vacuum cleaner which might be a good idea for someone with lots of wax or that forgets to clean their sound tubes often.
 
Using the DB-100 is really pretty simple to use: plug it in, set the timer switch (low = 2 hours, normal = 4 hours, high = 6 hours) and then press the on/off button.  For UV light, press the refresh button to activate the UV light if desired.  A single custom IEM will fit with a cable and 2 pairs without cables.
 
      
 
Instructions:
   
 
I did feel the top during use and it was barely warmer than the surrounding temperature and there was only a small temperature increase when opened.  The DB-100 will not greatly increase the temperature of your IEMs causing heat related damage.
 
Recommended for the person that:
- Works out with their IEM - use after each workout
- Performs on stage with their IEM - use after each performance
- Sweat a lot - use frequently
- Use their custom quite a few hours a day, every day - use weekly
- Live in a high humidity climate - use weekly or more often
- Have a lot of ear wax - use a few times per week
-  Want to protect their investment - use at least weekly
 
Can the DB-100 stop my SM3 cables from continuing to harden?  How about slowing down the greening effect of silver custom IEM cables?  Time will tell, and I plan on using the DB-100 after every use of the DRM Earz 4X which has a silver cable.  
 
I will start with the SA-12, which, as mentioned above, is my workout IEM.  Pictures below from 8-28-11, although I don't recall any progression in the oxidization of the SA-12 cable since I started using the DB-100.
   
 
I will post more pictures after more time passes to see what differences there are, if any.
 
 
Aug 29, 2011 at 5:55 AM Post #2 of 31

Uncle Erik

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At the risk of making a relatively useless post, this is one of the most interesting things I've seen around here.

I had no idea that there were hearing aid dryers.

If I get a pair of custom IEMs, I'll absolutely look into one of these.
 
Aug 30, 2011 at 2:02 AM Post #3 of 31

average_joe

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I am glad you found it interesting.  I did also, and different.  There are many people on here with large collections of IEMs and this may (or may not) help ensure the top performance of their collections!
 
Aug 30, 2011 at 2:47 AM Post #4 of 31

Heret1c

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Interesting. I never knew there was such a thing either. When I do eventually get myself a pair of customs, this will certainly be a must-have accessory. In the meantime,my mother-in-law uses a hearing aid and this might do well as a birthday gift for her!
biggrin.gif

 
Aug 31, 2011 at 12:18 AM Post #6 of 31

Anaxilus

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I'm actually concerned about the effect of dry heat on vinyl tips.  Silicone should be more stable and resistant to moisture loss I believe.  I try to leave a nice coat of Oto ease on my Westone tips as I worry they might shrink.
 
Aug 31, 2011 at 1:48 AM Post #7 of 31

average_joe

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Quote:
UV light causes acrylic to yellow over time. Just something to keep in mind.


I haven't used the UV light myself, but if the acrylic will yellow with use is dependent on the material.  Read here and here for some examples of answers to the question, yet in other forms.  If the shells will yellow in UV light, they will yellow over time regardless unless stored in the dark.

 
Quote:
I'm actually concerned about the effect of dry heat on vinyl tips.  Silicone should be more stable and resistant to moisture loss I believe.  I try to leave a nice coat of Oto ease on my Westone tips as I worry they might shrink.


There really isn't much heat, probably less than the heat in your ears when wearing them, but I understand the concern as vinyl isn't the sturdiest material, although for soft canals I am sure it is fine.  I sent Westone an email asking their thoughts on something like this damaging vinyl tips.
 
Aug 31, 2011 at 8:18 PM Post #9 of 31

Nagasaki_Kid

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Instead of using heat is it better to store them in a container with desiccant like
http://mylivewires.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=88:dri-aid-kit&catid=42:products&Itemid=78
 
Aug 31, 2011 at 11:37 PM Post #10 of 31

Heret1c

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^ Well that certainly looks like a cheaper alternative and less worrisome as well. But is it as effective? Lets see what Westone replies to joe's email to them.
 
Sep 1, 2011 at 1:23 AM Post #11 of 31

average_joe

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I ran the DB-100 tonight and after an hour in I opened the door and felt the custom (UERM) which was a little warmer than the ambient temperature, but not by much.  Things get much hotter in my car!  I can touch any part of the interior of the DB-100 and leave my finger on the heating plate indefinitely, but I can feel it is on and heating up.  I am sure these manufacturers know what they are doing.  After all, they are used with hearing aids that can cost $3K, and if they damaged hearing aids I am sure the company would be out of business.
 
My AV program is blocking that linked page above, but as far as the desiccant packs go, I am sure they would work fine also, but I wanted something I didn't have to maintain/keep buying.  There are dryers that also have desiccant systems, but you have to keep buying the desiccant, so long term cost is higher if you use them regularly.  They may or may not work better...
 
Sep 14, 2011 at 12:47 AM Post #12 of 31

average_joe

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David from Westone got back to me September 1st and I asked some more questions but have not received a response yet.  Westone sells the Serene DB-100 and he mentioned possibly offering a head-fi discount coupon.
 
As far as the effects, here is his response:
 
 
Quote:
Hearing aid dryers like the one mentioned in this thread can be a great tool for drying out the components and your monitors, however Westone has not done any comprehensive research on the effects the UV lighting may have on the acrylic materials the monitors are manufactured with. As far as discoloration of the body heat activated canal portion from exposure to the UV light, it is possible that it will cause it to yellow, change colors, or possibly harden. You should also know that normal use in your ear can cause discoloration and hardening (depending on individual body chemistry) as well, because the material comes into contact with body oils and cerumen (ear wax), which can stain the material. These effects common for custom fit earpieces regardless of the manufacture.

 
 
Nov 14, 2011 at 12:35 AM Post #14 of 31

dannytang

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This is just a thought, but you would say it's advisable to make the sound tubes/bores are facing upwards so that the moisture can escape when the IEMs are warmed up? I would assume that if the sound tubes/bores were facing towards then the moisture would remain trapped in the IEM, warm air rises right?
 
Nov 14, 2011 at 12:57 AM Post #15 of 31

average_joe

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It really shouldn't matter as the water should evaporate.  When I have opened the chamber when it is on the entire area seems about the same temp and the idea is to warm the air allowing more water vapor to be absorbed, speeding up the evaporation process.
 

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