By Gabrielle Filips

Gabrielle Filips

As professionals in the hearing health industry, our main goal is to ensure the best hearing experience possible for hearing aid wearers. That experience  goes beyond the way wearers hear in their surroundings, and extends to how they handle and manage their hearing aids and hearing aid batteries. Currently, the percentage of hearing aid wearers who are discontent with battery functionality is alarming. In the 2010 MarkeTrak VIII survey, 45% of participants rated their hearing aid’s battery life as less than satisfactory.1

How do we resolve this concern? Fortunately, advancements in rechargeable battery technology are providing a powerful, user-friendly, and convenient alternative for powering today’s hearing devices.

Although rechargeable batteries aren’t new to the hearing aid scene, their success has been limited until recently. First introduced 30 years ago, rechargeable batteries weren’t initially widely adopted, as they were difficult to operate, cumbersome, and were perceived as less reliable than the zinc-air alternative. However, thanks to improvements in NiMH battery design, today’s rechargeable batteries offer improved power and smaller sizes to meet current cosmetic demands.

 

RECHARGEABLES MEET HEARING AID USERS’ UNIQUE NEEDS

Rechargeable batteries have become a mainstay for consumers. They use them in a myriad of portable devices, including mobile phones, cameras, and DVD players. Increasing awareness of the benefits associated with rechargeable batteries has spurred their adoption in many applications, including hearing aids

The benefits of rechargeable batteries for hearing aids include:

• Enhanced comfort and ease of use: Since the average age of hearing instrument wearers is 71 years,1 hearing aids need to be designed to accommodate the particular needs commonly found in that age group. Among these age-related complications are decreased dexterity and diseases that numb the fingertips, such as arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, and Parkinson’s disease. Such ailments can make opening battery packaging, accessing the battery compartment, and guiding the battery into place a very frustrating and even painful experience. For patients with such physical limitations, rechargeable batteries are an ideal solution, as they don’t need to deal with tiny batteries on a regular basis. Rechargeable hearing aids are simply placed into a charger at night, and in the morning they are ready for the day’s use.

• Eco-Friendly: Rechargeable batteries give hearing aid users a “greener” alternative to disposable batteries, which expose the environment to significant amounts of lead and acid. During a three-year time span, two digital hearing aids can use an average of more than 300 disposable hearing aid batteries. By contrast, within the same time span, two comparable hearing aids will use an average of only six rechargeable batteries.

• Cost-Efficient: Although the upfront cost of rechargeable batteries is greater than that of disposable batteries, over time, disposable batteries are likely to cost more than a rechargeable option. For example, a single zinc-air battery costs an average of $1. Assuming the typical binaural wearer changes the batteries once a week, costs may exceed $300 for a three-year period. A three-year supply of rechargeable batteries and one charging station costs less than $200

• Confidence: Hearing aid wearers often worry that their battery will die at an inconvenient time. Rechargeable batteries eliminate this cause for concern, as the power source is charged during the night and will last throughout the next day. Another advantage of  rechargeable hearing aid batteries is that wearers don’t need to remember to purchase new ones or to remember where they put replacement batteries when they are needed.

• Flexibility: Today’s rechargeable hearing aids allow users to use both zinc-air and rechargeable batteries. This gives them the flexibility they need in circumstances when a disposable battery option is essential.

• Longevity: Zinc-air batteries can drain prematurely, if not properly sealed. On the other hand, rechargeable batteries are self-contained, sealed systems, which prolongs their shelf life and reliability. In addition, rechargeable batteries have been proven to better withstand severe conditions and climates.

 

CHARGING STATIONS HAVE IMPROVED

Today’s battery charging stations are designed to make the recharging process easy for hearing aid users. For example, they can offer the dual functionality of recharging the hearing aids while dehumidifying them with an electronic drying function, thereby helping prolong the life of the hearing aids. The instruments can simply be placed inside the charging cavities of the charging unit. The battery doors don’t need to be opened, nor do the batteries need to be removed. When a person places hearing aids inside the charging station, the base automatically detects the instruments. Once the hearing aids are detected, the charger turns them off automatically, eliminating any risk of feedback and ensuring an optimal charging process.

Chargers for reusable batteries can have  modular designs that include an outer case and an insert. The insert differs based on the battery size, which allows professionals to stock a base and a few inserts to accommodate any instrument they may be fitting.

 

MEETING CONSUMER DEMAND

As hearing aids continue to evolve and perform more power-hungry functions, further technological development will be needed so that rechargeable batteries can offer more power in smaller designs. Conversely, hearing aid manufacturers need to be cognizant of developing products and accessories that consume less power and thereby increase battery life and reduce charging time.

The efficiency, usability, and power of a hearing aid battery can greatly affect an individual’s hearing experience. As hearing care providers learn more about the benefits of rechargeable batteries, more hearing aid users will be able to improve not only their hearing, but their lifestyle as well.

References

1. Kochkin S: MarkeTrak VIII: The Key Influencing Factors in Hearing Aid Purchase Intent. Hear Rev 2012;19(3):12-25.

 

Gabrielle Filips, AuD, is an Educational Specialist with Siemens Hearing Instruments. Dr. Filips joined Siemens in 2008 following 12 years in private practice. Her responsibilities include the training and education of staff and professionals on Siemens technology, services, and software. She is a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the American Academy of Audiology.

8 Responses to Rechargeable batteries and hearing aids are a natural fit

  1. ZPowerCEO says:

    Steve,
    Hearing aid manufacturers are being very diligent in their assessment and introduction of rechargeable battery technology into the market in order to deliver a final product truly worthy of this “great idea.” Developments in battery and microelectronics technologies are taking place now that will enable rechargeable hearing aids to go from a niche to mainstream within the next several years.

  2. Steve Kraly says:

    While rechargeable batteries sound like a great idea, why do so few hearing aids use them? Will that change? Comments, anyone?

  3. Estella M. Cook says:

    I found this sight by looking for batteries for my old hearing aids. Sorry I can’t afford the newer hearing aids. But since I must buy batteries HOW MUCH are the RECHARGEABLE ones???? and were can I buy them??? and how do I charge them??? Can you help me with that info please???? Thank you, Stella

    • David Kirkwood says:

      As editor of Hearing Views, I asked Jennifer Fairbanks of Siemens Hearing for a response to your question. Here is what she wrote:

      Hello, Estella. I would direct you to your local hearing care professional. There are many rechargeable options on the market, but some of them have greater longevity. Your existing hearing aids and your use of them will determine the appropriate battery, cost and method of charging or replacement. You do want to be careful to select an option that will work well with your hearing aid power consumption and allow you to make it through an entire day of use without having to change them.

      Based on your comment, I assume your current hearing aids are not compatible with rechargeability. They seem to be different than the Siemens system in which the instrument and the battery are placed in the e-charger together. Your hearing care professional will be able to offer detailed guidance once he/she takes a look at your specific hearing aid model and use. As a starting place, you can identify a local Siemens provider by typing in your zip code or state here: http://mysiemens.siemens-hearing.com/locator/. While your existing aids aren’t Siemens, a local Siemens provider will have the expertise to guide you. I wish you all the best and hope you’re able to get your hearing aids back up and running soon.

      Jennifer Fairbanks

  4. ZPowerCEO says:

    Kathy, great to hear you love your rechargeable battery hearing aids so much. No more worrying, inconvenience, and waste for you, as most wearers experience today with disposable batteries. My company, ZPower, has developed the next generation of high energy batteries which will make the rechargeable experience even better and available to all hearing aid wearers. More to come as we continue our work with hearing aid manufacturers on their new products.

  5. Lynn says:

    How can I find rechargeable hearing aid batteries for my mom’s hearing aids?

    • David Kirkwood says:

      As editor of Hearing Views, I asked Jennifer Fairbanks to reply to your comment. She wrote:

      Hi, Lynn. Thanks for your question! Several companies, including Siemens, offer rechargeable hearing aids. To leverage rechargeability, your mother may need a different model than what she’s presently wearing. It depends on what her current brand/model supports. Your best bet would be to visit your mother’s local hearing care professional with her, so you can discuss her options with her provider. You can find a local Siemens provider by typing in your zip code or state here: http://mysiemens.siemens-hearing.com/locator/. And you can learn more about Siemens’ rechargeable offerings here: https://www.medical.siemens.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/PSOptionProductDisplayView?catalogId=-201&catTree=1028665,1028577&langId=-201&productId=200392&storeId=10001 . I hope this helps! Best of luck.

  6. kathy says:

    I can not tell you the weight off my shoulders not having to worry about batteries for my hearing aids. It is such a Godsend to daily living. Everyone should have one – no debate.

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