Everything from cell phones and iPads to electric weed whackers and lawn mowers can run on rechargeable batteries. Is it any surprise then that rechargeable hearing aids are increasingly in popularity?

What are rechargeable hearing aids?

Traditional hearing aids use disposable zinc-air button batteries, which last anywhere from 5 to 15 days, depending on the size of the battery, hearing aid features, and hours of use. Rechargeable hearing aids have built-in batteries you recharge by placing on a docking or charging station when not in use. With rechargeable hearing aids you don’t have to worry about purchasing and replacing batteries on a regular basis. 

Initially hindered by low battery life and power capabilities, rechargeable hearing aids now provide enough power for a full day’s use, even when using streaming audio or Bluetooth. If you value convenience and long-lasting batteries, rechargeable hearing aids may be right for you.

Pros & Cons of rechargeable hearing aids

Like any type of hearing aid, rechargeable hearing aids have their strengths and weaknesses. The advantages of rechargeable hearing aids include: long battery life, they're safer for kids and pets, they're better for environment, they perform better in cold weather compared to disposables.

Rechargeables advantages

  1. Long battery life: Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries hold charges of up to 30 hours and have a working life of five years, far superior to the 20-day lifespan of disposable batteries.
  2. Durability: These batteries are sealed inside of the hearing aids which makes them much less prone to moisture-related damage.
  3. Safer for kids and pets: Lithium-ion batteries cannot be removed from the hearing aid, making them a safer option for young children. Disposable button batteries can be easily misplaced and can be swallowed by pets or children. Swallowing a disposable battery can lead to esophageal burns, emergency surgery, and even death. If children swallow button batteries or insert them into the nose or ears, call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 800-498-8666 immediately.
  4. Easy to handle: People with vision or dexterity problems often find replacing disposable hearing aid batteries difficult. With rechargeable hearing aids there’s no need to fiddle around with tiny batteries. You simply dock the hearing aids on their charging station at night for a full day’s use the next day.
  5. Better for the environment: Rechargeable hearing aids don’t need frequent replacement, so fewer batteries are potentially released into the environment.
  6. Better in cold weather: If you live in a cold climate, you might want to consider lithium-ion rechargeable hearing aids. Disposable zinc-air hearing aid batteries don’t function as well in cold climates. A lack of moisture and low temperatures cause the batteries to drain quickly.

While these are all excellent reasons for considering rechargeable hearing aids, there are some potential disadvantages. None of these drawbacks are necessarily deal breakers, but they are important to consider when choosing the right types of hearing aid for you.

Rechargeables disadvantages

  1. Battery Drain: Generally, battery drain is not a concern for rechargeable hearing aid batteries, as long as you charge them every night. If you miss a night, the hearing aid may not have enough power to see you through the entire day. On a related note, if you use your hearing aid for streaming audio for more than half the day, rechargeable batteries may die before the day is over.
  2. Loss of user control: Because lithium-ion batteries are sealed into hearing aids, the user cannot remove and replace batteries as needed. Instead, the battery must be replaced by a licensed hearing professional. This means either living without hearing aids for a little while.
  3. Dependence on charging ports: While rechargeable hearing aids are convenient and easy to use, they rely on their charging port. If the charger or its cords are damaged, you may not be able to charge your hearing aids until you purchase replacements. 

Are rechargeable hearing aids right for me?

Whether or not your hearing aids have rechargeable or disposable batteries is an important consideration, but not as important as ensuring your hearing aids have the features you need to improve your hearing and quality of life. If all other considerations are equal, and you prefer the convenience of a charging port to the hassle of frequently changing button batteries, rechargeable hearing aids may be right for you.

Rechargeable Hearing Aids

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FAQs on rechargeable hearing aids

What styles of rechargeables are available?

At present, only behind-the-ear (BTE) and receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids support rechargeable batteries. Smaller hearing aids, such as in-the-ear (ITE) and invisible hearing aids, are too small to use rechargeable batteries, as recyclable technology has not advanced to the point where the tiny batteries used in smaller hearing aid styles can hold a full day’s charge. If you want smaller hearing aids, you may have to settle for disposable hearing aid batteries at the moment, although as battery technology improves that limitation may change.

How long do rechargeable batteries last?

Fully charged, rechargeable batteries provide 24 to 30 hours of use, even when the user listens to streaming audio for half the day. On average, it takes three hours to fully charge rechargeable hearing aids, and you can get six hours of use out of a 30-minute charge.

Rechargeable hearing aid battery lifespan depends on the type of battery used. Lithium ion hearing aid batteries are the same type of battery used in cell phones and other portable electronics. They are sealed in the hearing aid case and have a lifespan of five years, after which they need to be replaced by a licensed hearing professional.

Silver-zinc rechargeable batteries are the same size as disposable zinc-oxygen button batteries. Unlike lithium-ion batteries they can be removed from the hearing aid, making replacement easier. Silver-zinc batteries provide as many hours of use as lithium-ion batteries and have a lifespan of approximately one year. Both types of rechargeable batteries are recyclable.

Can I replace disposable ones with rechargeables?

It’s best to only use rechargeable batteries with hearing aids specifically designed for rechargeable batteries. It may be possible to use silver-zinc rechargeable batteries in an existing hearing aid, but you would need to purchase a compatible charging port and there’s no guarantee the hearing aid would work properly. 

Are recyclable aids better for the environment?

Recyclable batteries are absolutely better for the environment. A lithium-ion battery provides up to five years of use. Presuming a hearing aid with disposable batteries used 675 batteries (the longest lasting hearing aid batteries), with each battery lasting 14 days, you'll use 120 disposable batteries over the course of five years.

Are recyclable hearing aids expensive?

Rechargeable hearing aids are no more expensive than disposable battery hearing aids with similar features. You will, however, need to purchase a charging station, which can cost $200 to $300. Silver-zinc rechargeable batteries cost $25 to $50 to replace every year, which compares well with the $30 to $150 a year you’d spend on disposable batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries cost up to $200 to replace, but as they only need replacing every five years, they’re still cheaper than five years of disposable battery purchases. 

How do I care for rechargeable hearing aids?

The care and cleaning of rechargeable hearing aids is no different than for hearing aids with disposable batteries. Caring for the batteries, however, is a bit different. Whether your hearing aid uses lithium-ion or silver-zinc batteries, always place the hearing aids on the charger when not in use. Frequent charging will not reduce battery life.

If your hearing aid uses silver-zinc batteries, do not open the battery door when you’re not using the hearing aid except for in the following situation. If you are not going to use hearing aids for three or more hours and do not have access to the charging station, remove the batteries and store in a location where they do not touch each other or any other metal objects.

If you are not going to use lithium-ion rechargeable hearing aids for several hours and do not have access to the hearing aid charging port, turn the hearing aids off and store in a safe location.

No matter what type of batteries power your rechargeable hearing aids, keeping the hearing aids dry and away from extreme temperatures maximizes battery life. 

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