You're undoubtedly accustomed to disposable batteries if you've ever used a hearing aid. However, with recent developments in rechargeable technology, the power choices now include rechargeable batteries.
A new world of power
Rechargeable hearing aids are nothing new, but previous rechargeable designs were not as reliable as what powers most of today's rechargeable devices. New developments have made hearing aid rechargeable batteries as robust and long-lasting as those found in cell phones and computers. The new rechargeable batteries are derived from Lithium-ion technology, the same that is the basis of new electric cars.
Rechargeable hearing aids have batteries built right into the device, and usually are not replaceable by the user. Rather than replacing a dead battery, you charge the hearing aid itself every night, which provides a full day's worth of power in the morning. The charging dock looks much like a a phone, electric razor or electric toothbrush charging dock.
Why rechargeable hearing aids might be right for you (the pros)
No need to replace the batteries
Hearing aids using lithium-ion batteries can last up to five years before the internal battery needs to be replaced. This coincides with the practical life of most hearing aids, on average. Again, we can thank current car technology for the improvement in rechargable hearing aid technology. The lithium-ion hearing aid batteries appear to last the longest of all current rechargeable technologies. Better yet with this lithium-ion technology, it is impossible to overcharge them!
Great for those with limited hand dexterity
Hearing aids are getting smaller, which is fantastic for keeping them discreet, but it's a challenge for those with poor hand dexterity. If you have poor vision or dexterity issues, changing small batteries could be a challenge. You won't find this problem with rechargeable hearing aids, and all you have to do is to drop them in a charger overnight and they are ready to go the next day.
Better for the environment
With disposable batteries, you end up throwing away dead batteries every few days or weekly. Since disposable batteries are no longer recyclable, there’s a possibility their internal chemicals may find their way into underground water supplies, posing an environmental risk. On the other hand, a Lithium-ion battery will last the entire life of the hearing aid. This means only one battery will be used every five years. The manufacturers have a way of safely disposing of them.
Fall into an easier nightly routine
Dropping the hearing aids into the charger is easier to remember than having to open up the battery door, the common way to shut off most disposable battery-based hearing aids. No one wants a dead hearing aid, when you forgot to open the battery door, as is the case with the disposables! Also, a disposable battery may run out at any time, near the end of the week, when you least expect it. A rechargeable battery will not.
No more paying for batteries.
If you use disposable batteries, the cost adds up throughout the life of your hearing aid. Rechargeable hearing aids are not subject to these additional, ongoing expenses. Although the initial purchase price of a rechargeable hearing aid may be somewhat higher than its disposable battery counterpart, the total cost of ownership should be less.
Things to consider with rechargeable hearing aids (the cons)
When weighed against the benefits listed above, rechargeable batteries would suit most people, just like we all prefer rechargeable smartphones. However, there are some things to consider before purchasing a rechargeable hearing aid.
If your charger breaks, there’s a problem. If your charging station or cord is damaged, you may be unable to use your hearing aids until it is repaired or the part is replaced - unless you buy for an extra charger. When traveling, don't forget to bring your charger with you. If traveling overseas, make sure to bring a wall adapter. Also, most hearing aid charger cables end in a standard USB connector, which can be plugged into your computer or a power brick. Ask your Audiologist if they have a spare charger, like they would a loaner hearing aid!
Limited styles to choose from. This second generation of rechargeable hearing aids is still relatively new. Manufacturers are just beginning to offer their full compliment of types and styles. Your choices of styles and types may be limited for the time being.
The initial cost of rechargeable hearing aids may be higher. Since you are buying a charging device and a more sophisticated battery in the initial purchase price, the initial purchase price may be roughly 5% higher than its disposable counterpart. The good news is that the rechargeable battery and charger are covered under the new aid warranty, which for quality devices, typically runs for 3 years. If the Li-ion battery needs to be replaced out of warranty, the cost will be more than that of a disposable battery
Are you both an early bird and a night owl, keep odd hours, or sleep with one or both hearing aids in your ears? Remember that rechargeable hearing aids are designed to run for 18 hours non-stop and then require a 4-6 hour charge, before another 18 hour non-stop use. If you answer yes to any of the above questions, a rechargeable hearing aid may not be for you.