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The pros and cons of rechargeable hearing aids

Written by by Dianna Randolph, AuD, CCC-A. Posted in January

In the ever-changing world of technology, it is hard to keep up with the latest options. From smart phones to TVs, technology has made our lives easier. The advances in technology are also apparent in hearing aids. Not only has the technology in hearing aids improved tremendously over the past 10 years, but they can now stream wirelessly to a smart phone, turning your hearing aids into your headphones also. The newest advancement in hearing aid technology is the rechargeable battery option. This frees up the hearing aid wearer from having to purchase batteries or having to carry around spare batteries. The typical charge holds for 24 hours, so the battery will not die in the middle of the day. This article will discuss the types of rechargeable batteries that are available and the pros and cons of each type.

 

There are two types of rechargeable batteries available for hearing aids. One is the silver-zinc rechargeable, and the other is the lithium-ion rechargeable. Both types of batteries need only one charge per day, but the life of both batteries degrades faster if the hearing aids are streaming audio.

Lithium-ion battery

Lithium-ion batteries are used by a few different hearing aid manufacturers, but they work the same in all hearing aids. The lithium-ion battery is in a sealed integrated power pack in the hearing aid. This keeps the battery safe from damage or fire if it is mishandled. We all saw what happened to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 when the battery was damaged. The smart phone was recalled and is banned from all airline flights.

Having the battery in a sealed case also means the user cannot change the battery in the hearing aid. If the battery dies mid-day, the device has to be placed on the charger. The battery will last four to five years by the manufacturer. This is considered standard repair and will have the cost of a standard hearing aid repair.

If you stream a lot of audio from your smart device to your hearing aids, your lithium-ion battery will give you shorter battery life (12-16 hours instead of 24 hours). Finally, the lithium-ion batteries are bigger, making the hearing aids bigger.

Lithium-ion batteries are very easy to work with; they simply drop into their chargers. They will hold a charge typically for 24 hours.

Silver-oxide batteries

Silver-oxide batteries are the more popular rechargeable batteries available in hearing aids today. They are manufactured with the name ZPower. Like lithium-ion batteries, they also have a 24-hour life (5 hours of streaming). But unlike a lithium-ion battery, the user can replace the silver-oxide battery with a regular disposable zinc-air hearing aid battery if the charger is not available. Also, the silver-oxide battery is more stable than the lithium-ion type.

The silver-oxide battery will have to be replaced yearly, but this can be done by the user. Also, this type of battery is smaller, which means smaller hearing aids. Finally, many manufacturers have made their hearing aids backwards compatible. That means, with just a change of the battery door, your current hearing aid will become rechargeable. Please ask your audiologist if your hearing aid is capable of doing this. Finally, silver-oxide batteries are non-toxic and recyclable.

If you are wondering whether rechargeable batteries are a cost savings to you, it’s a wash. The cost of the recharging unit is about the same as the cost of buying disposable batteries for the lifetime of the hearing aids.

If you do not like to be bothered by changing the batteries in a hearing aid, or you have dexterity or vision issues that make changing a hearing aid battery very difficult, then the rechargeable option could be what you are looking for. They are very easy to use and recharge in as little as a few hours. Currently, only behind-the-ear hearing aids are rechargeable. Any custom product still will use disposable batteries. But as we have seen, technology changes very quickly, so rechargeable custom products may be the next big advancement with hearing aids.

At Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic, we have fit several rechargeable hearing aids to our patients who request them. We are currently working with manufacturers that use silver-oxide batteries. Each patient has reported long battery life with no problems. Our patients have liked the ease of charging and the added bonus of not having to purchase or change batteries.

If you are interested in rechargeable hearing aids, we encourage you to contact our office and make an appointment. Our audiologists will discuss the types of rechargeable hearing aids that are offered and recommend a hearing aid that is right for you and your lifestyle. The main goal of hearing aids is better hearing, but if a rechargeable option will encourage you to pursue hearing aids, then it is an added bonus. We are excited to see what comes next for hearing aids as technology keeps changing!❦