Advantages and Disadvantages of Rechargeable Hearing Aids

Hearing aids with rechargeable batteries have now become a mainstream choice.
Today's hearing aids are powered by one of two types of batteries: disposable, removable "button" batteries or non-removable rechargeable batteries.
Disposable hearing aid batteries are removable and require you to replace them every few days to weeks, depending on your hearing aid model.
Rechargeable means they can be connected to a charger overnight and never need to be removed from the device. You may hear this type referred to as "rechargeable hearing aids" or "hearing aids with rechargeable batteries"—they are the same thing.
With technological advancements, hearing aids with rechargeable batteries have become widespread, extending to both Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC) and many Behind-the-Ear (BTE) hearing aids. Rechargeable hearing aids are now the preferred choice for many. However, some individuals may still prefer hearing aids with disposable batteries, depending on their circumstances.

What are Rechargeable Hearing Aid Batteries?

Unlike traditional hearing aids equipped with disposable batteries, rechargeable hearing aids have built-in batteries (commonly lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride) that don't need regular removal. Instead of taking out the battery itself, you simply connect the hearing aids to a charging device every night, similar to charging a smartphone.

Most rechargeable hearing aids are best suited for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss. Of course, some brands, such as Chosgo, ReSound, Eargo etc., offer rechargeable "power" hearing aids designed for severe to profound hearing loss.

Should I buy rechargeable hearing aids ?

Considering the current trend in CIC hearing aids, equipped with portable charging cases, it may be a favorable option. The charging case utilizes a TYPE-C interface for rapid charging, taking approximately 3-6 hours for a full charge, providing continuous power for the hearing aids 3-4 times. A fully charged set of CIC hearing aids with a portable charging case can operate for 16-22 hours, offering a total working time of 84-100 hours. Utilizing USB charging, compatible with regular phone chargers, and the compact size of the charging case make it highly efficient and convenient, alleviating concerns about running out of power. Chosgo SmartU Rechargeable Hearing Aids, lasting 18 hours, with a portable charging case providing 4 backup power cycles on a full charge, represent high-end rechargeable CIC hearing aids.

SmartU

Contrastingly, using disposable button batteries requires purchasing the correct size either from a pharmacy or online, ensuring the size is accurate, and the cost of battery replacements can add up.

According to Tim Cross, a hearing aid expert:Determining if rechargeable hearing aids are suitable for you is a personal decision based on preferences and financial considerations. Understanding the pros and cons of rechargeable hearing aids can assist in choosing the most suitable option for your needs.

Advantages of Rechargeable Hearing Aids

Higher Comfort and Ease of Use:

Increased comfort and user-friendliness are achieved through rechargeable batteries. According to data from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), hearing loss stands as the third most common chronic condition among elderly Americans. Age-related health complications and diseases, such as arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, and Parkinson's disease, can lead to numbness in the fingertips and reduced flexibility. This may result in frustrating and sometimes painful experiences when opening battery packaging, handling battery compartments, and guiding battery placement. For wearers facing these challenges, rechargeable batteries can significantly enhance their quality of life by eliminating the need for regular handling of small batteries. With rechargeable batteries, hearing aids simply need to be inserted into the charger overnight, allowing wearers to start each day with freshly charged batteries for daily use.

Cost-Effective:

There's a common misconception in the hearing healthcare industry that rechargeable batteries are a costly solution. Over time, traditional zinc-air batteries might end up costing more than rechargeable ones. For instance, the average cost of a single zinc-air battery is around $1. Assuming a typical bilateral wearer replaces batteries weekly (due to increased battery consumption from digital and Bluetooth features, sometimes requiring replacement every two days), the cost over three years could surpass $500. In contrast, purchasing rechargeable batteries that last for three years with a charging case can cost less than $300. Outstanding rechargeable hearing aids under $300 include the Audien ATOM Rechargeable Hearing Aids (with a claimed 24-hour runtime) and the Chosgo K419R Rechargeable Hearing Aids (claimed 22-hour runtime, with a portable charging case offering an additional 3 full charges).

 atom

Peace of Mind:

Many hearing aid wearers worry about batteries running out at inconvenient times, causing stress and awkward situations. Rechargeable hearing aids alleviate this concern as they charge every night and have a runtime of over 12 hours, easily handling a day's worth of activities. Additionally, most rechargeable hearing aids come with a portable charging case, providing an extra 3-4 full charges.

Safer for Children:

Rechargeable hearing aids pose less risk compared to disposable button batteries, which can be hazardous if accidentally swallowed by pets or children. Rechargeable hearing aids eliminate this risk unless the entire hearing aid is swallowed (which, admittedly, has happened).

Environmentally Friendly:

Rechargeable batteries create less waste as they are charged rather than replaced. They are more environmentally friendly than disposable batteries, which, if improperly disposed of, can expose our environment and water resources to lead and acid. Over three years, two digital hearing aids may require over 300 button batteries, whereas, within the same timeframe, two rechargeable hearing aids typically use only one rechargeable battery.

Long Shelf Life:

Most rechargeable batteries on the market are well-protected with sturdy, high-quality seals, ensuring the batteries won't dry out or deplete prematurely (a common issue with zinc-air batteries). Additionally, rechargeable batteries, particularly those using lithium-ion technology, boast a longer shelf life. With a usage duration of 3-5 years before replacement, they outlast disposable batteries. However, actual longevity may vary based on factors such as the extent of usage of power-draining features like wireless streaming. Meanwhile, hearing aids equipped with disposable batteries require users to replace them every few days to weeks, depending on the hearing aid model.

Easier Handling:

People with flexibility issues or those who prefer not to worry about constantly purchasing and replacing batteries may benefit from wearing rechargeable hearing aids. This is because disposable batteries are often small and their packaging can be challenging to operate.

Hearing aid expert and hearing aid wearer Tim Cross states, "If peeling open the pull tab on the battery without dropping it, or placing it into the battery compartment is difficult for some individuals, then rechargeable would be a huge advantage." For instance, Cross recounts the experience of a 90-year-old patient, saying, "Frankly, you could drive down the street with her and hear the television louder than she could, or knock on the door, and she wouldn't hear your voice. She has limited flexibility and vision and wouldn't wear a hearing aid because she couldn't change the battery."

He equipped her with rechargeable hearing aids, placing an additional charger in her office so that if any issues arose, she wouldn't have to live without her hearing aids. "It has completely changed her life," he says, "and provided peace of mind to her family."

Drawbacks of Rechargeable Batteries:

However, not everyone is suited for wearing rechargeable hearing technology. "It is very simple and basic to a large extent," says Cross, "but some people might not find it practical beyond normal routines and processes (such as power outages or grandchildren accidentally unplugging the charging device). Highly active individuals with a lifestyle that demands immediate access, without time for charging, may find it much easier to replace a set of new batteries instead."

Other drawbacks include:

Lack of User Control:

"In many rechargeable hearing aids, the battery is encapsulated within the device, and users cannot remove it themselves," he says. "If this happens, and the battery needs replacement, you often encounter downtime without the hearing aid. This can be inconvenient, as even borrowed hearing aids won't have your specific settings."

Dependence on the Charging Device:

The charging time for most hearing aid models is approximately three hours. "The battery does need to be charged daily," says Cross. "If you interrupt the charging cycle and assume the hearing aids have been poorly charged, it's possible that one of your devices may stop working. If you forget to bring the charger, the charger malfunctions, or the power cord is damaged, you also have to deal with the situation."

"For 35 years, I've witnessed the emergence of rechargeable technology as a means to attract people into the hearing aid market," he says. "It reappears every seven years or so in the form of something new and then disappears. The last wave has become the mainstream. The current generation of technology is close to meeting consumer demands, which is why I believe it will become commonplace."

His patients who wear rechargeable hearing aids "like them and find them comfortable to wear." They have them for a reason," Cross says. "They suit them and meet their needs."

Summary:

Understanding and being familiar with rechargeable hearing aids reveals both drawbacks and considerations for better choices and preferences when purchasing hearing aids. The drawbacks include a lack of user control, as many rechargeable devices have encapsulated batteries, preventing users from replacing them themselves. Additionally, there is dependence on the charging device, as the charging time is essential, and interruptions in the charging cycle may lead to hearing aid downtime. Despite these drawbacks, the technology is becoming mainstream, meeting consumer demands, and many users find rechargeable hearing aids comfortable and suited to their needs. It emphasizes the importance of considering individual preferences and lifestyle factors when choosing between rechargeable and disposable battery hearing aids.