2020- The Year of the Rechargeable Hearing Aid
In 2016, Phonak changed the game by introducing the first rechargeable hearing aids with lithium-ion batteries, and since then all major brands have followed suit with rechargeable models. 2020 has indeed been “The Year of the Rechargeable Hearing Aid”. Rechargeable hearing aids with lithium-ion batteries utilize the same technology found in your mobile phone and hundreds of other rechargeable consumer products. Providing a strong combination of energy and power density, they can now yield more than a full day of power for hearing aids, even when paired with power-hungry Bluetooth devices. And thanks to their consistent power output, users don’t experience the malfunctions or intermittence that limited hearing aids based on earlier rechargeable technologies.
Rechargeable vs Disposable.
Do you ever forget to charge your cellphone at night, only to have it die halfway through the next day? Do you spend a lot of time “off the grid,” without access to electricity? Are you a power user who streams audio to your hearing aids 16 hours a day? If you answered yes to any of these questions, there’s a possibility that rechargeable hearing aids aren’t for you. Hearing aids with disposable batteries may work better for you.
But if you’re accustomed to recharging your phone and would prefer not to have to change your hearing aid’s batteries, you have a lot of company. In fact, hearing aid users have long made it clear they would generally prefer rechargeable hearing aids over their disposable battery counterparts.
However, rechargeable hearing aids aren’t for everyone. Here are the top five things to consider before purchasing rechargeable hearing aids for yourself or a loved one:
- Manageability - Hearing aids are small devices that require a lot of manual dexterity. Sometimes older adults or very young kids have trouble getting them into their ears, turning them on and off and, especially, changing those tiny batteries. Rechargeable hearing aids with built-in lithium-ion batteries eliminate that dexterity challenge.
- Cost - Rechargeable hearing aids generally cost more than hearing aids that use disposables. But constantly replacing disposable batteries with new ones can cost $50.00 per year, depending on how much power your hearing aids draw. So, in comparing hearing aids, keep in mind the extra cost of ownership of disposable-battery hearing aids.
- Environmental concerns - All batteries, rechargeable and disposable, should be recycled when they eventually wear out. Rechargeable batteries in hearing aids now last several years or more, so you don’t have to worry about recycling very often. Disposables last only a few days or a little over a week, so you have to recycle them frequently (or feel guilty for tossing them in the trash).
- One charge per day - Until recently, rechargeable hearing aid batteries failed to meet the one-charge-per-day standard that consumers have become accustomed to with their mobile phones. Earlier batteries based on nickel metal hydride technology suffered from shorter life and less stable power output. But new lithium-ion batteries last all day, making an overnight charge easy and convenient.
- Convenience - If you don’t want to carry around spare packs of batteries everywhere you go, rechargeable hearing aids are a great solution. On the flip side, you do need to remember to charge rechargeable hearing aids every night. Forgetting to place them in the charger at night can mean the difference between hearing and not the following day.
When you look at the pros and cons, it’s clear both disposable hearing aid batteries and rechargeable hearing aids are here to stay. Which you choose depends on your specific needs.
How Long Does the Battery Last?
When using rechargeable hearing aids, battery life is one of the first concerns that comes to mind. How long will your hearing aids last on a single charge? Rechargeable batteries in hearing aids are actually much better than expected in terms of operational time, and this is thanks to careful power-consumption optimization by the hearing aid companies. When compared to wireless earbuds, which typically only last 4-8 hours, hearing aids are light years ahead, with operating times in the 19-36 hour range. This is quite a range, and there are some factors that may decrease battery life:
- Wireless streaming - If you stream wireless audio, this will reduce the operating time of your hearing aids. This includes Bluetooth audio streaming, but also includes using wireless accessories, like remotes.
- Speaker strength - When your hearing professional configures your hearing aids, they may need to select a higher-powered speaker depending on your severity of hearing loss. Higher-powered speakers consume more power and reduce battery life.
- Hearing loss severity - If your hearing professional has to crank up the volume to meet your needs, this will use more battery power on an ongoing basis.
- The age of your battery - After a year or two, your battery will not hold the same charge as it did on day 1. This is the nature of li-ion batteries, and you should expect to replace your batteries after a few years, if they are no longer getting you through the day.
- Sound environment - If you spend more time in noisy environments, your hearing aids will need to do more heavy duty sound processing in order to provide a cleaner sound, and this chews up the battery faster than minimal processing in quieter environments.
Another important question you may have is “how long will the batteries last before needing to be replaced?” This is a great question, and the answer is, it depends on the hearing aid manufacturer. As mentioned above, all batteries will lose their ability to charge over time, and so it really does depend on your needs (in terms of hours of daily use) and the day 1 capacity and deterioration rate of the specific batteries you’re using. Hearing aid manufacturers often cite a number of years of expected battery life, but do consider that the batteries may last longer or shorter for you personally, depending on the factors above.
Are you ready to transition to rechargeable hearing aids? Call us as 281-361-4327 to find out more! Our current promo features Unitron Discover Next Rechargeable hearing aids at a significant savings.
Content of this article was modified from an online article by Dr. Abram Bailey, AuD. For more information on Dr. Baily vist https://www.hearingtracker.com/authors/abram-bailey-aud.