While we’re waiting for automatic movement hearing aids to be invented (or alternatively, for ear transplants to become available), let’s talk about hearing aid batteries.
Types of Hearing Aid Batteries
From the old-fashioned mercury zinc button batteries, modern hearing aid batteries now typically fall into one of two categories – disposable zinc-air button batteries or rechargeable batteries.
After the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act of 1996 (yes, there’s a whole law about this), only two types of mercury batteries are still permitted in the US, one of these being button batteries. However, being a toxic heavy metal is not considered particularly favorable to the environment as incinerated or landfilled batteries can result in mercury permeating the air or groundwater, and so most manufacturers have moved to zinc-air batteries.
Zinc-air batteries come with an adhesive seal. Once peeled off, the interaction of the surrounding air with the zinc activates the battery. As sticking the seal back on doesn’t deactivate the battery, it’s best to leave the seal in place until you’re ready to use it. Manufacturers then recommend allowing the unsealed battery to sit for a minute or two before inserting into the hearing aid as this allows the battery to fully activate.
To bring a little more excitement into your life, disposable button batteries also come in different color-coded sizes – yellow, brown, orange, and blue. Different types of hearing aids will require a certain size and capacity of battery, with the larger size (blue) typically used in power behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids and the smallest size (yellow) for mini receiver-in-the-ear hearing aids (mini RITE).
A few hearing aids on the market are now designed with rechargeable lithium ion batteries. Most of these aids are larger BTE devices; however, manufacturers such as Signia and Oticon do provide sleeker rechargeable options, such as the Signia Styletto X receiver-in-canal aid and the Oticon Opn S miniRITE R.
Rechargeable hearing aids are typically recharged overnight using an inductive charging port purchased from the hearing aid manufacturer. They’re then good to go by the morning.
Hearing aids are generally designed specifically for use with either a disposable or a rechargeable battery, and it’s not recommended to try to simply swap the battery of your device between the two. If wanting to move from a button battery aid to a rechargeable aid (or vice versa), it’s best to visit your local L2L hearing aid center to potentially be refitted into a new device.
Battery life is always a hot topic when it comes to batteries, particularly those that power important things like your hearing. Of course, the life of a battery depends on the usage of the hearing aid and how energy-intense its features are, such as Bluetooth connectivity or tinnitus mode. In general, disposable button batteries have a lifespan that averages from 3-7 days for the smallest yellow battery up to 20 days for the largest blue battery. Zinc-air batteries have a shelf-life of up to 3 years if stored properly at room temperature in a dry environment.
Rechargeable batteries can often power a hearing aid for up to 30 hours before needing a nap in the charging port overnight. Many charging ports also come with a quick boost feature to provide a few extra hours of power after only a short time of charging for users who are planning a late night. And unlike the rapid turnover of button batteries, a rechargeable battery lives happily in its hearing aid for about 5 years before needing replacement.
Battery Safety and Care
Optimizing battery life
The life of a hearing aid battery can potentially be maximized by following these 6 steps:
- Turning off the hearing aid when not in use
- Opening the battery compartment when not in use to allow any moisture to be released and avoid corroding the battery
- If you plan on giving your hearing aids a rest for an extended period, consider removing the battery completely
- Store button batteries at room temperature; contrary to popular belief, refrigerating a battery doesn’t extend its life and, in fact, may cause damage due to condensation
- Avoid getting grease or dirt on the battery by having clean hands when handling it
- Avoid contact between loose button batteries and other metallic objects as this may cause the battery to short circuit
One of the advantages of a rechargeable battery over a disposable is that loose button batteries can often look like delicious shiny candy to children and pets. Button batteries should be kept out of reach of children, and, if your child is both particularly tenacious and hungry, out of sight as well – a swallowed button battery can burn holes through little tummies. Concerningly, US poison control centers report over 3500 cases of children swallowing button batteries every year.
Button battery disposal
Hearing aids with rechargeable batteries should be taken to your local L2L hearing aid center to have the battery replaced once its time is up. However, button batteries are easily changed by the user at home – it’s then your responsibility to dispose of them properly. Because of a button battery’s shiny candy appearance as mentioned earlier, discarded batteries should be kept safely away from children and pets until they can be taken to a recycling center. Avoid throwing batteries in the trash as they may be found by a hungry puppy, and also have the potential to leak toxic metal waste into the environment if incinerated or taken to landfill.
If you’re in need of hearing aid batteries or know someone who is, we invite you to visit our online store. We have ample inventory and offer the most competitive prices on the internet and in Philadelphia, Bucks, and Montgomery counties.