We, The Battery-Operated People

I am totally driven by battery power.

A battery houses one or more electric cells that produce electricity from a chemical reaction. Cells make things work, including people.  The human body is composed of 100 trillion cells that turn food nutrients into energy that allows people to move and function.

So as a human being, I am a battery; I run on cell power, both internal and external.

I’m writing this with a battery-operated mouse. We’ve installed battery-powered smoke alarms in the house. Batteries light up the flashlights we used frequently during three summer power blackouts and two camping trips. My car has a battery. So does my husband’s watch, our cell phones, my laptop, and my iPad.

And that’s just everyday battery stuff that everyone uses.  But people with hearing loss – we are the ultimate battery-operated people.

We are the People with Batteries.

My neckloop attached to my MP3 uses a battery so I can listen to music on walks.   When the doorbell rings, it  triggers a battery-operated device that wirelessly tells my upstairs desk lamp to start flashing.  Most importantly, batteries ignite the power of my hearing aids.

When I was young, I used to worry that Heinz would stop making ketchup, my favorite food. Later, I panicked at the thought of my favorite mascara producer going out of business. These days, I worry about the world supply of zinc.

Zinc is one of the main ingredients of the common zinc-air hearing aid battery used by hearing aid and cochlear implant users. It’s a metallic chemical element (Zn), with the largest mine-able amounts found in Australia, Asia and the U.S. But what I really want to know – is the market supply stable? Is there lots of zinc left in the world – enough, say, to last at least another 25 years or more, before I ultimately pass on?

Air, the other necessary ingredient, is not so much of a worry. There appears to be an ample supply to meet the current demand of us zinc-air junkies. And here’s more good news for people like me with a high emotional and practical dependency on batteries – they are a growth industry. According to a 2005 estimate, the worldwide battery industry generates $48 billion (US) in sales each year with 6% annual growth. Whoo-hoo! These numbers are not only reassuring, but also a source of pride, because I am a contributor to the health of the hearing aid battery industry.

I’ve done the math.  The battery for my power-sucking right hearing aid lasts about 5-6 days, and it’s slightly longer for my ‘better’ ear. Assuming two batteries every six days, that’s 122 batteries per year, or a little over 30 four-packs. By the time I’ve lived those extra 25 years – while I don’t know exactly how much zinc I’ll have consumed, I know I’ll have sucked up a lot of air – I estimate that I will have bought, used, and discarded almost 7,000 hearing aid batteries!

Is there an award for this? Does the Hearing Aid Battery Industry recognize its top consumers – and I don’t mean the retailers who sell them, I mean the people who use them!  Us – the People with Batteries!

I always keep a good supply of batteries on hand. Someone snooping around the Hannan house will find packets everywhere – in my bag (several), bedside table, in the kitchen, the bathroom, and maybe even a stray pack or two in the basement.  So, whenever I hear that little “boop-boop” that says my battery is about to die, no matter where I am in the house, I only need to walk a few feet for a snappy replacement.

I don’t think this is obsessive, just practical. I wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without at least two batteries, and preferably two packages. On the rare occasion when I’m out and about without any backup batteries in my purse, I’m uncomfortable and off-kilter until I buy some.  Once there’s a fresh pack in my purse, I breathe more easily, knowing I’m not suddenly going to lose power and be cut adrift.

Sure, it would be wonderful if our lives were not so battery, electrical or diesel-fuelled. But the reality for battery-operated people is that we depend on technology to help us communicate and live well – and we are grateful for it!  As I wrote in a past blog about batteries, they’re far more interesting than I, with my non-scientific brain, had ever suspected.

So, hearing care professionals, make sure your clients have a good supply of quality batteries that they know how to use.

And People with Batteries – have you hugged your battery-maker recently?

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.

9 Comments

  1. Have Batteries, Will Travel
    Don’t leave home without them.
    It’s the little things that count.
    Good things come in small packages
    A battery is a girl’s best friend….

    The world has been using People with Batteries’ slogans for decades.
    It’s time the world got with the Buzz …

    … and paid royalties.

  2. Solar Ear with its rechargeable batteries sounds like something I’ve been looking for.
    Gael, I’m glad to know that you appreciate your batteries. I am annoyed with mine. Why,my hearing aid battery is likely to last 7-10 days, while my watch battery lasts at least a year. I feel that battery makers are taking advantage of the hard-of-hearing.

  3. I am the same way with batteries all over the house! When my husband and I were dating, my hearing aid died on a date, and I realized with horror that I didn’t have any in my purse! I made him go to the closest Shopper’s and got some, VERY thankful they had my size (Think of the 1-800-Contacts commercial “I HAVE SPECIAL EYES!”, that’s how I felt). Nowadays however, I am super prepared…usually.

  4. Hi, Gael,

    A lady with imagination!

    Batteries…
    There is a solution to the zinc supply problem. It’s called nickel, and as used in a nickel metal hydrid cell, can be recharged over and over again. Some hearing aids use them. Most don’t. One problem is that they typically produce just a little bit less voltage, and don’t store as much on a single charge, so they have to be recharged or replaced more often. Of course, as long as they have enough charge to get you through two days, and can be recharged in the evening, they work just fine.

    There is a company in Africa that has worked on making hearing aids that run on rechargable cells, and he has solar powered chargers for them. So the cost and the use of materials is minimal. I saw him at the recent Hearing Loss Association of American meeting in Portland, Oregon. He has his heart in the right place.

    So there is a way out if we run into a zinc supply problem.

    Not to worry.

    George

    1. Thank you George for your kind words. Yes our non-profit organization, Solar Ear makes rechargeable hearing aids, solar charger and size #13 or #675 rechargeable batteries which lasts 30-50% as long a a zinc battery but can be recharged over 2-3 years. We export to 43 different countries including USA.. All of our products are made by people who have a severe hearing loss and speak in sign language.

      1. Thank you Howard. I just realized while reading this article How dependent we are on batteries, & then it came to me how many of them are rechargable batteries, & no matter how good a supply of replaceable batteries you may have, if/when the power goes off, where are you? I know, I can charge my cell phone & Kindle in the car, as long as the gasoline lasts, but what about my camera, my HA remote, my Bluetooth adaptor, my cordless phone, my husband’s razor, etc?. What we need is a universal solar recharger,

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