Rechargeable Hearing Aids
Rechargeable hearing aids have come on and off the market periodically over the past few decades. While those who have been in the hearing aid industry for a while may think of rechargeability as a “fad” that comes and goes, this latest wave has been different. That’s because the latest wave of rechargeable batteries are light, longer-lasting, and can power a set of hearing aids for a full day’s use.
The lithium-ion battery was invented in the 1970s, though it didn’t become commercially available for the first time until 1991. Today, lithium-ion batteries power at least a few devices in just about every household. They’re used in smartphones, cameras, tablets, laptop computers, electric toothbrushes, and vehicles like electric bicycles and cars.
Lithium-ion batteries can be configured to emphasize power or battery life. They can be recharged more times than any other type of rechargeable battery, and they don’t have to be connected to a power source for too long to achieve full power again.
Why Rechargeable Hearing Aids are Here to Stay
With the latest wave of rechargeable hearing aids, manufacturers seem to have finally hit the nail on the head. It may also be that we are simply more accustomed to working with rechargeable devices these days, since most everyone has used a cell phone for the last 20 years or so. But our readiness to adopt the practice of charging our hearing aids shouldn’t be attributed solely to habit.
Rechargeable hearing aids today are lightweight and plenty powerful, and most models can operate for a minimum of 18 hours before needing a charge. Not only that, but the long lifespan (about 5 years) of a contemporary lithium-ion battery means that the compartment does not need to be accessible, as it once did. This gives rechargeable hearing aids an added advantage: they are better-sealed against moisture and debris than hearing aids that require a battery door.
Add to this the fact that most hearing aids now connect wirelessly via Bluetooth to our smartphones. If we can easily control our hearing aids via a smartphone app, we no longer need physical buttons and volume dials on the devices themselves. This is an additional opportunity to seal the hearing aid against moisture and debris. Phonak has even started making a RIC (receiver-in-canal) model in their Audeo line that can be submerged in up to 1.64 feet of water!
It seems that a kind of rechargeability has finally come along that is truly practical, and makes a tangible improvement in the way we can use our hearing aids. We will likely be seeing rechargeable hearing aids on the market consistently going forward, and they may one day even come to replace hearing aids that use disposable batteries entirely.
Why Choose Rechargeable?
Rechargeable hearing aids are increasingly the best option for most people, most of the time.
- They don’t require you to purchase batteries or keep a stock on hand.
- They’re better-protected against moisture and debris.
- You don’t have to open the compartments at night to let them dry out or turn them off—just wipe them with a clean, dry cloth and place them in their charging station.
- They’re safer for kids and pets, who can die after ingesting a typical zinc-air hearing aid battery. (They may still be at risk if they manage to ingest a full rechargeable hearing aid—this does happen!)
- They’re better for those with dexterity issues or arthritis, since you don’t need to change any tiny batteries.
- They’re more environmentally friendly. A typical set of hearing aids uses over 500 batteries in the course of its life.
Why Not Choose Rechargeable?
Rechargeable hearing aids will still not be the best option for everyone. There are valid reasons to choose hearing aids that use typical disposable batteries.
- If you have trouble remembering to charge your devices at night, rechargeable hearing aids may not be right for you.
- Rechargeable options are usually only available for BTE (behind-the-ear) and RIC (receiver-in-canal) hearing aid models. Smaller hearing aids typically still use zinc-air disposable batteries, which provide more power in a smaller package. The manufacturer Starkey just came out last year with the world’s first rechargeable ITE (in-the-ear) hearing aids, so we may be seeing more innovation in this department soon.
- If you do a lot of camping or otherwise don’t always sleep next to a power outlet, disposable batteries might be better for you.