Rechargeable hearing aids may appeal to you because you’re interested in a “greener” way to power your hearing aids, or you may have difficulty handling the tiny batteries used in traditional hearing aids. Here, we answer some common questions about rechargeable hearing aids to help you weigh your choices.
Q. Are there any differences between traditional and rechargeable hearing aids, other than the way they are powered?
A. When new devices are introduced, both traditional and rechargeable hearing aids offer technological advances beyond the battery, including improved signal processing and more automatic adjustments. These help you hear better and more comfortably in complex listening situations, like in the car, social settings, talking on the phone or watching TV. Advanced signal processing and automation are available in both rechargeable and traditional battery styles.
Rechargeables may be more convenient for patients who struggle with vision and/or dexterity when replacing tiny traditional hearing aid batteries.
Q. What types of batteries do rechargeable hearing aids use?
A. Rechargeable hearing aids use either integrated lithium-ion batteries or field changeable silver zinc batteries. These batteries can hold a charge for around 24 hours of use. Batteries require recharging every night by placing them in a charging station. If you stream a lot of audio, the batteries may not last a full day. It is important to make sure to keep contacts and the charging station clean, dry and on a flat surface for best charging.
Q. Are there differences between the different hearing aid manufacturers?
A. Specific hearing aid manufacturers offer features to appeal to different consumers. Some manufacturers have different charging stations which can be more reliable than others. In addition, some rechargeable batteries can be replaced in the clinic, while others require manufacturer repair.
Q. Is there a cost savings with rechargeable hearing aids?
A. In most cases, the cost of rechargeables and traditional hearing aid batteries are about the same. Your initial investment when choosing rechargeable will include the charger and the cost of the first rechargeable battery or batteries. The rechargeable battery life will depend on the type of rechargeable battery your hearing aids use. The annual/routine cost of replacement rechargeable batteries is currently about the same as disposable batteries. In some cases, manufacturers will charge a regular out-of-warranty repair cost any time the rechargeable battery needs replacement, which may vary from $250-350 per repaired device.
Q. How long do batteries in rechargeable hearing aids last?
A. Most rechargeable hearing aid manufacturers promise a full day of use on a single charge, so the batteries can be recharged overnight while you are sleeping. The length of time batteries hold their charge varies depending on how the hearing aids are being used. Often, a quick charge, if needed, will allow a hearing aid to continue operation even on a long day of use.
Some of the factors that will lead to less operating time include: wireless streaming, speaker strength, hearing loss severity, age of the battery, and the sound environment itself (are you using your hearing aids in a noisy or quiet listening situation)?
Q. What’s the best rechargeable for me?
A. In 2016, Hearing Tracker surveyed U.S.-based hearing aid consumers about their rechargeability preferences after two industry leaders announced upcoming hearing aid models with lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. Of the 510 hearing-aid owners who responded to the survey, 89% said their aids used non-rechargeable disposable batteries, but 70% said they would prefer rechargeable hearing aids. Recently, Hearing Tracker polled the members of its Facebook support group and found a huge jump in rechargeable hearing aid ownership, up to 30% from 11% four years earlier.
Lithium-ion rechargeables are simple to use and meet most consumers’ requirement to stay “charged” for a full 24 hours. Currently, there are some restrictions on the power level/amplification level of rechargeable options, and they don’t come in all styles. So rechargeable options have more limitations in available size/style of hearing aid, as well as the overall power level, which is typically for more mild to moderate types of hearing loss. It’s important to work closely with your audiologist to fully understand the best options for you, your lifestyle and your type of hearing loss.
Q. Are rechargeable hearing aids more convenient than traditional hearing aid batteries?
A. If you don’t want to carry around spare packs of batteries, rechargeable hearing aids are a great solution. On the flip side, you do need to remember to charge rechargeable hearing aids every night and make sure to travel with your charger unit. Forgetting to place them in the charger at night can mean the difference between hearing and not the following day.
Q. Are rechargeable hearing aids really better for the environment?
A. All batteries, rechargeable and disposable, should be recycled when they eventually wear out. Rechargeable batteries in hearing aids now last several years or more, so you don’t have to worry about recycling very often. Disposables last only a few days or a little over a week, so you have to recycle them frequently. However, new disposable batteries are zinc air and are environmentally friendly compared to mercury based batteries of the past.
If you’re interested in learning more, schedule an appointment with a doctoral-level audiologist to discuss whether rechargeable hearing aids are right for you. Call 1-855-547-8745 or schedule an appointment online with a doctoral-level audiologist.