To recharge or not to recharge?

Convenient, easy to use and more environmentally friendly than throwaway batteries, rechargeable hearing aids eliminate weekly battery changes. But are they the right choice for you?

Solar-powered homes, electric cars, mobile pretty-much-everything – in recent years battery technologies have revolutionised the way we live, move and communicate. And since the 2016 arrival of long-life Lithium-ion and Silver-Zinc rechargeable batteries, hearing aids have undergone some tech transformations to get up to speed with this global megatrend.

Wait! Rechargeable hearing aids aren’t a new thing, are they? Well, no, but until very recently battery technology didn’t measure up to the one-charge-per-day standard we’re used to. Improved functionality and the advent of wireless audio streaming put even more strain on limited battery life. So, rechargeable hearing aid technology has had a patchy past. And now that new generation technologies are available, we can weigh up the cases for and against in order to justify the extra expense.

Let’s take a look at the options:

Lithium-ion: Lightweight and fast-charging with a four-year battery life, Lithium-ion batteries easily meet the one-charge-per-day standard, even with five hours of audio streaming. There’s no need for fiddly disposable batteries, and charging is as simple as plugging your whole hearing aid unit into a dock. Sounds perfect, right? Well, there are a few drawbacks, including a relatively bulky size. This means battery replacements need to be carried out by the manufacturer. But rapid tech advancements are already streamlining these shortcomings.

Silver-Zinc: Originally offered as a retro-fit option by battery manufacturer ZPower, Silver-Zinc rechargeables also meet the one-charge-per-day standard. But because these batteries are easily removed from the hearing aid casing at home, they come with a distinct advantage over Lithium-ion: if you forget to charge them you can slip in a disposable battery to use in the interim. They’re also smaller and designed to be used with your existing, familiar hearing aid model. So, does all this mean they’re better than Lithium-ion options? Well, yes and no. Silver-Zinc batteries need to be replaced every 18-24 months. But because they’re cheaper than Lithium-ion batteries, the cost evens out over time.

What about regular batteries?

While rechargeable technologies are advancing quickly, there’s no denying the one advantage non-rechargeables have: in terms of a single use, they last 18-24 months longer. So, if swapping out a battery every five days is no big deal for you, perhaps you’d prefer to wait for rechargeable batteries to offer the same longevity before you spend on an upgrade. If you’re travelling for work, or prone to forgetting to charge-up overnight, the convenience of disposables might outweigh any benefits of rechargeables… for now.

Keep your ears open for the latest rechargeable advances because, if the last two years are anything to go by, we’ll be seeing radical improvements in functionality, applications and battery life in the months and years to come.

For more information on rechargeable hearing aids, contact your local clinic.

NHC blog is our place to explore ideas and themes of interest. For professional audiology advice, please contact your local clinic for a consultation.