Hearing aids with traditional batteries may sound a little outdated to you. While they are still the most popular and most-manufactured type of hearing aid, rechargeable hearing aids are starting to grow in popularity. Audicus takes a look at how rechargeable hearing aids work, and what benefits and potential risks they might bring.
Rechargeable Hearing Aids? Since When?
Much like the name suggests, rechargeable hearing aids don’t need new batteries every time one dies out. Like your smartphone, fitness tracker, and laptop, rechargeable hearing aids have a permanent battery that uses some sort of electric component to charge the battery regularly.
Whether you were aware or not, rechargeable hearing aids have been around for quite some time. However, these past versions always had a relatively short battery life—a few hours, rather than the days provided by disposable batteries. As Bluetooth was integrated to hearing aid technology, battery life dropped due to wearers streaming audio through their hearing aids.
The old versions of rechargeable hearing aids were just too inconvenient for most consumers, especially since chargers were bulky and tough to carry around in case your hearing aid died. The design of the hearing aids themselves was also larger than traditional hearing aids and many people did not care to wear them.
Pros and Cons to Rechargeable Hearing Aids
There are quite a few benefits to using rechargeable hearing aids:
- Can save money rather than continuously buying disposal batteries
- Better for the environment (disposal batteries can cause toxic waste)
- For some people it may be easier to use a charging dock than remove and insert batteries
However, there are some cons and risks to rechargeable hearing aids:
- Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are toxic if accidentally swallowed
- Lithium-ion batteries cannot be removed by hearing aid wearer, only the manufacturer
- Battery life is reduced when streaming audio through hearing aids
- Rechargeable batteries are not forever: they must be replaced every 1 to 5 years, depending on type of battery
The Future of Rechargeable Hearing Aids
Hearing Tracker conducted a survey in 2016 that questioned 600 participants on their opinions about rechargeable hearing aids. While nearly 90% of consumers reported only using disposable batteries, a solid 70% said they would prefer rechargeable hearing aids. The hearing manufacturers have listened to this need, and 2018 is looking to be the year of rechargeable hearing aids.
Many hearing aid companies are just starting to offer sleeker hearing aid models that guarantee a full day’s charge, so you only have to plug in your hearing aids in the charging dock once a day. One brand, ZPower, has created a universal charging dock that can be used with most standard hearing aid models that use silver-zinc technology—if you have this type of hearing aid, you can purchase the dock without having to switch to new hearing aids (check with your audiologist first).