hearing aid batteries

What I Didn’t Know About Hearing Aid Batteries

When considering a blog about hearing aid batteries, I thought “What’s to write? When I put them in, I hear. When they sputter out, I don’t. I put in new batteries. End of boring story.”

On second thought, I’ve been “doing” hearing aid batteries for 37 years (I started young), and  I don’t usually think about them until there’s a problem.  In reality, I’m only one dead battery away from hysterics. While I may project an image of hearing loss serenity, if I put in my hearing aid and there’s no sound, my heart rate accelerates and my blood runs cold.

It’s only the battery, it’s only the battery,” I tell myself.

And usually it is. But until I know that for sure – until I can fumble a fresh battery out of the package, tear off the sticky thingy and re-insert my hearing aid – my hands sweat and my knees shake. Then, if I hear the welcoming chimes of an active hearing aid, I relax and send a thank-you to the skies.  But if the hearing aid is still dead, I have a minor meltdown until the problem is fixed. (Dud battery? Air vent plugged? Wax guard need changing? Hello, Mrs. Audiologist?!)

I cannot go very long without my hearing aids; I get dizzy. One horrible Sunday evening, long ago when late-night pharmacies were still a dream, my battery died and I had no spares.  Since then, I always have a supply of batteries on hand and I never leave home without a package in my purse.

The most challenging aspect of hearing aid batteries, beyond making sure you have some, is the act of putting them in. These cells are small beings, requiring manual dexterity. Battery manufacturers understand this and are always working on new designs for packaging and insertion. There have been dial-a-battery packages and some that push the battery out, but at the moment we seem to be back to simple packaging.

Breaking news! I’ve just discovered that my hearing aid kit included a “multi-purpose tool” with a magnet at one end to facilitate battery handling. It’s cool – but by the time I get to the age or stage where my fingers cannot manoeuvre the battery directly, I certainly won’t be able to hold this small wand either, much less find it.

 

What the Experts Tell Us About Hearing Aid Batteries (And My Comments)

 

  • Fresh batteries are best. That is true but packaged batteries do last for a long time. And as they no longer seem to carry a “Best By” date, it’s hard to tell what’s fresh and what ain’t.
  • Remove the battery from the hearing aid when you’re not wearing it.    Either no one told me this, or I didn’t hear it. For the first year, I put my aid in a drawer every night, with the battery humming away. Apparently, this was not good. Removing the battery lengthens battery life and prevents potentially damaging corrosion.
  • Speaking of extending a battery’s ‘lifespan’….

After removing the tab on zinc air batteries, let battery sit for 1 minute before inserting into the hearing aid, for maximum power potential.  I did not know this! I’ve always been a peel-and-pop girl – I peel off the tab and pop it right into the aid. I am reformed as of this minute. Unless I’m in a hurry.

The more severe a person’s hearing loss, the harder a battery must work, shortening its life. Well, that explains my status as preferred battery-buyer.  Should I should collecting points or something?

Hearing aids with all the bells and whistles may use more power, causing the battery to expire sooner. But if one needs, and can afford, the higher-end technology, what’s an extra couple of batteries a year?

In the presence of loud noise, batteries work harder and die younger. I try to avoid too much loud noise – not to save my batteries, but to save my hearing and sanity.

Low humidity will dry out the battery and high humidity can interfere with its discharge.  Low temperatures or high altitudes cause lower battery voltage.  Oh, where to live!? I guess the best place, for optimal battery life and performance, is a hot dry place like Arizona. Or in a closet.

Store batteries at room temperature.  Is the bottom of a purse considered ‘room temperature’?

Do not keep dead batteries in the bottom of the purse; throw them out immediately.  I thought it was eco-cool to collect old batteries and hand them in for recycling. Not that I ever did this, mind you; they just collected in my purse until an occasional clean-out.

  • Dry aid kits are recommended in the humid summer months to protect hearing aids and batteries from moisture damage. The battery should be removed from the aid(s) while inside the kit.  They are not recommended for the dry (winter) months, but this is one bit of advice I’m going to ignore. My dry aid provides year-round protection from cats and dust.
  • If your hearing aid beeps, it means something.  When I got my new digital hearing aids, I obviously didn’t read the instruction booklet; I was very focused on dealing with the new type of sound. A few days later, I heard something in the house go beep-beep! I rushed around checking fire and carbon monoxide alarms, the coffee machine, the microwave, the various computers and phones. All of a sudden, I heard what sounded like a quiet missile falling to earth, and my hearing aid went quiet. Aha! The beep-beep was warning me that my battery was about to expire.

 

OK, I admit it: hearing aid batteries are fascinating. For an interesting article on rechargeable hearing aid batteries, see the recent post by guest blogger Gabrielle Filips.  In fact, HearingHealthMatters.org contains many great blogs on the subject – just type in ‘batteries’ in the search box on the right hand column of this webpage.

Happy hearing!

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

19 Comments

  1. Sticker use: I always suggest my patients put their battery stickers on the wall calendar when they change batteries. Especially for new users or those who purchased new aids. This way they can determine actual usage for their lifestyle and know when the must carry spares.

  2. Oh, thanks for the chuckles, Gael! I just bought new hearing aids which beep before the battery dies. I have been wearing old hearing aids where the big ol’ battery lasted a lonnnnnng time (2-3 weeks?) but with these new, high-powered, fancy dancy doohickeys the battery only lasts me about 5-6 days! I did the EXACT same thing that you did when I heard the battery warning beep! It’s great to hear I wasn’t the only one. :)

    I wonder when they’ll start making plug-in hearing aids like our cell phones and iPods. Wouldn’t that be convenient? Maybe with a back-up battery option?

    I don’t use a dry-aid! Never have, and my hearing aids have lasted me a very long time, but I should probably buy one! :)

  3. Just want to clarify something for Curtis. Letting the battery rest about a minute isn’t intended to prolong battery life. It allows air to enter the battery (there are tiny holes on the positive side of the battery) and become fully activated. Without doing this, you run the risk of asking the hearing aid to boot up on a battery that isn’t at its optimal performance level. I’ve seen some hearing aids that act up initally when this isn’t done and others that are fine however, both the battery and hearing aid manufacturers recommend this step.

    I, too, have people use the Dri-Aid all year long. No problems from doing this that I know of.

    1. Deb, thanks for that clarification. I mistakenly identified this one-minute period as helping to lengthen battery life.

      Gael

  4. Many of the shortcomings and inconveniences of disposable batteries can be addressed by rechargeable batteries. My company, ZPower, is working with hearing aid manufacturers on next generation rechargeable hearing aids that match the ease of charging of your cellphone and laptop. No more worrying about your hearing aid going dead at an inopportune time or fretting over carrying spare batteries.

  5. I love it! as a hearing aid user I can relate. Also as someone who works for a non-profit I am constantly reminding people of exactly what is so humorously discussed. Can I please republish and copy this for my clients.

  6. LOVE your articles, especially this one. I don’t have hearing aids anymore (now wear CI) but this actually brought back memories!! I grew up letting my batteries breath at nights and I totally forgot about it… I need to let my fiance know, he don’t usually do that!!!! Thank you! :)

  7. Never waited for a minute. After peeling off the tab, I usually “wave” the battery around for a sec or two, to get more air in, and that’s it.

  8. I’m definitely another peel and pop girl too.

    The Murphy’s Law of hearing aid use is that the one time you don’t have batteries on you is when they will quit, and it will be when you can least afford to stop and look after the problem.

    Years ago I was at Windows restaurant just settling in to watch the Blue Jays play after a wonderful dinner. My battery quit and I had forgotten to pack a battery, just in case. Now the rules were that there was no readmittsnce if you left, but after speaking to a couple of the security people they agreed to make an exception. Had to hail a taxi and ask to be taken to the nearest pharmacy. Finally found one open on the third try (sigh! So many businesses downtown close at five) and by the time I got back I had missed almost half the game and had a big taxi tab. Then when I get back in I get greeted by the security guy with the message that another security guy had a hearing aid and he’d have given me a battery (turned out not to be the right battery for my aid anyways).

    Thanks for the tip on the one minute rule. Don’t know if I can wait an entire minute before joining the land of the hearing again, but I’ll give it a shot.

  9. Alway leave home with spare batteries. They have a habit of losing power when you least expect it. I wear a hearing aid in each ear and I can always tell when one battery is dead. This means I only hear on the side the battery works. I have seen people wear hearing aids in the pouring rain with no protection or place them in their dusty pockets.

    Hermine Willey

  10. Oh my gosh Gael, never knew batteries could be so interesting. lol as for batteries dying out just before a presentation, been there! I just get started then boom, nothing. ohoh, I dont have a spare. I looked at my hard of hearing audience and said, my battery just died! Oh how they laughed and I laughed with them then carried on. When they asked questions, I had to get up close because with my poor eyes, I cant read lips from a distance. sigh I too was a peel and pop consumer…never knew that about batteries. hm, the things we arent told or…dont hear? Now the CI battery I recharge nightly. not as convenient as hearing aid batteries but way it goes…sometimes I forget to do that and sure nuff, it dies midday. Now I carry the spare with me with batteries. Wonder if I need to wait a minute before putting in the batteries????

  11. I’ve always had dogs, and I have worn a hearing aid for many years. I hate button batteries with a Purple Passion. I’ve always been afraid of a dog swallowing one, and being harmed. I wrap my dead button batteries in a tissue or paper towel. Then put them in a sealed empty bottle. I save vitamin or other small bottles for this purpose. Then I put the bottle in the trash. I do the same with my husband’s watch batteries, or other button batteries. My unused batteries are kept in their package in a drawer, and the battery I’m using is sealed in a container when I’m not wearing my aid, and it is put out of the dogs reach. My dogs have been good about leaving my things alone, but I don’t take a chance with hazardous materials.

  12. Great post Gael! It is so funny that in my daily workshops on hearing aids, never a session goes by that someone does not ask that dreaded question about ‘How long will the battery last?’ How much do they cost?? Not near enough concern about the hearing aid as there is about the battery! I will be copying this out as a tip sheet for them!! If they can prolong the life of that battery for 1 or 2 hours , they will be happy!

  13. Dry, damp, high, low, in, out, these things are like pebbles in your shoe! – you just can’t take them out. Thanks, Gael, for the one-minute tip and the poison link. Every night, I clean mine with a tissue, take the batteries out, and put it in my dry aid canister winter or summer. I also write the exchange date on the top of the canister so I know roughly when I’m about to go off-line. If I have something important near the end, I change them early. You’re right – one beep-beep away from panic!

    1. Peter, you’ve brought up a good point, that I forgot to include. If I’m about to give a presentation and it seems like a while since I’ve changed my batteries, I will put in fresh ones. Once when I was out of town, my hearing aid died – not a battery problem – and I had to do a performance ‘deaf’. It was a challenging situation. I have sometimes taken backup hearing aids with my on longer trips.

  14. I usually peel and pop in. I’ve tried waiting a minute and it makes no difference that I can tell in how long the battery will last. By the time you’ve got the hearing aid back on anyways, it’s been at least 15 seconds.

    Not using the dry aid in the winter seems odd to me, I use mine year round as well. Then again, I do live in wet Vancouver… My aids get moisture year round, if not from humidity and sweat in the summer, its from rain in the winter.
    If its the battery drying out that could be the issue, don’t put the battery in the dry aid, just put the hearing aids in.

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