Cindy Leeb, Au.D.
Every year hearing aid manufacturers spend a lot of time and effort improving the electronics and features in hearing aids, but in the last two years there has also been significant changes in battery options. Previously, only one of the big six manufacturers offered a rechargeable hearing aid and now each manufacturer offers some form of a rechargeable solution. So, what are the pros and cons of a rechargeable battery? Do I really mind changing a battery?
Disposable batteries for hearing aids come in 4 sizes, each of which have their own expected battery life. The smallest battery, a 10, will give you on average 3-5 days of usage, a 312 will give you 5-7 days, a 13 will give you 7-10 days, and a 675 will give you 10-14 days. In addition, when disposable batteries changed to zinc air, it was recommended that when you peel the sticker off to change your battery you let it sit for 3-5 minutes in open air before putting it in your hearing aid in order to maximize battery life. For some people this weekly battery change is a struggle, complicated by dexterity problems, vision problems, and a host of other reasons that make changing the battery a chore. Some people find it’s easier using a magnet to assist in replacing the battery, but for others it is still a tricky process.
Rechargeable batteries offer the user the benefit of putting the whole hearing aid straight into a charger. On average most manufactures boast a charge time of only a few hours, which will give the consumer a full day of hearing aid usage (ask your provider for more details on each manufacturer individually). In addition, many offer charging cases that can charge your hearing aid on the go without being plugged into a power source; this is extremely helpful if you forgot to charge your hearing aids the night before. Some designs also feature desiccants to allow the charger to serve the dual purpose of charging your hearing aids and drying out all the electronics after a day’s use. There is even one company that has developed a turbo-charger, where a charge time of only a few minutes will lead to several hours of battery life. Typically, the chargers are very simple and offer a slot for each hearing aid as well as flashing lights to indicate to the user when the hearing aid is actively charging, fully charged, or if there is a problem. All of these features make hearing aid chargers relatively simple and easy to use.
Today, there are two main rechargeable battery options on the market: an encased lithium-ion battery and a silver zinc rechargeable battery. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, the lithium-ion battery is fully encased inside the hearing aid, which makes the devices slightly more watertight, offering fewer openings for moisture to get into the internal circuitry. That being said, if you have a problem with your lithium-ion hearing aids, there is no way to change the battery to a disposable zinc air battery to see if this is the source of the problem like you can with the silver zinc variety. On the other hand, the silver zinc battery does need to be replaced about once a year versus the lithium-ion battery which lasts for about 3-5 years before needing to be replaced.
Overall, the recent increase in rechargeable options has been a positive change in the landscape of hearing aids, providing greater ease of use for those who previously struggled with battery changes or relied on family or caregivers for assistance. So, the question remains, standard batteries or rechargeable batteries, which is the best for your needs?