Rechargeable Hearing Aids, What Are The Pros and Cons?

Let's talk rechargeable hearing aids, what are the types and their pros and cons?

The modern type of rechargeable hearing aids have been really popular since they were launched last year.  With the introduction of new battery technology, we have become more confident in offering them. While some people have warned people off rechargeable hearing aids for different reasons, we think there are pros and cons to the devices like everything else. Let me explain.

Rechargeable hearing aids have in fact been around for a very long time but they were not popular because of the problems with battery life. The traditional rechargeable hearing aids might not last a full day of use. That has a ll changed with the introduction of new battery technology. Two new rechargeable hearing aid technologies arrived on the market in 2016, Lithium-ion and Silver-Zinc both of these technologies offer something different with different pros and cons, but the one thing they both offer is a full day of use even when streaming audio wirelessly

Lithium-ion Rechargeable hearing aids

Two hearing aid brands now offer Lithium-ion rechargeable hearing aids. Phonak offer both a rechargeable Receiver in Canal hearing aid (The Audeo B-R) and a rechargeable Behind The Ear hearing aid (Bolero B PR). Signia offer a rechargeable Receiver in Canal option (Cellion). 

Lithium-ion can be expected to deliver at its best for between four and five years. Which means the battery pack will have to be replaced after four to five years. In the case of the Phonak hearing devices, the hearing aids will have to be sent back to the factory to have battery packs replaced. Signia on the other hand have made their battery pack replaceable in the clinic. 

So what are the cons?

  • Safety: Lithium-ion is a poison, and hearing aids are small enough to swallow, presenting a hazard to children and pets. Lithium-ion has the potential to go on fire if damaged badly enough.
  • Sealed Case: The fire hazard of the tech dictates that the lithium-ion battery be integrated into a sealed case. If it runs out of power while still in use, the hearing aid cannot run on a normal disposable battery but must be taken out of commission while it recharges. And when a lithium-ion battery reaches the end of its life, it can’t be replaced by the user but must be swapped out by the manufacturer.
  • Power Limitations: If you stream a lot of audio (from an MP3 player of mobile phone, etc.), there’s a possibility batteries may not last the full 24-hour day. In fact Phonak seem to think that if you stream up to about five hours, the aids will last 14 to 16 hours. This shouldn’t affect most people though, since 12-16 hours would be a typical day of hearing aid use.
  • Larger Hearing Aid: The footprint of Lithium-Ion is bigger than the other option which means bigger hearing aids. 

The Pros of Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Hearing Aids

  • No more battery changes: The technology ensures that you no longer have to worry about about changing batteries. 
  • 24 hours continuous use:  The technology has finally reached the all day standard. You should be able to get up to 24 hours use even with audio streaming.
  • Easy charging: Simply drop it in your charger, no hassle.

Silver-Zinc Systems

ZPower, an American company is the producer of the latest Silver-Zinc battery technology break through. Originally they offered a retrofit system which consisted of individually designed battery compartments and chargers for many popular hearing aids. This allowed hearing aid users to change their products to rechargeable hearing aids. Recently and in partnership with a couple of hearing aid brands there are now three separate Silver-Zinc powered rechargeable hearing aid options. This technology will also offer a full day of use.

Silver Zinc systems are not integrated and sealed into the product so if for some reason you don't get to charge your hearing aid, you can simply slip in a disposable battery. Silver-Zinc is also more stable than Lithium-ion, it won't explode into flame when damaged. 

The Cons of Silver-Zinc Rechargeable Hearing Aids

  • Once a Year Replacement: Silver-Zinc batteries need to be replaced once a year. This represents a cost to you, however, they are cheap enough so the cost over four or five years probably balances out with the repair cost of changing a Lithium-Ion power pack.
  • Power Limitations: This is less of a problem with Silver-Zinc, because they are much more power dense. However, if you stream a lot of audio (from an MP3 player of mobile phone, etc.), there’s a possibility batteries may not last the full 24-hour day.

The Pros of Silver-Zinc Rechargeable Hearing Aids

  • Much less battery changes: The technology ensures that you no longer have to worry about changing them except for once a year. 
  • 24 hours continuous use:  This technology will also deliver all day. You should be able to get up to 24 hours use with up to 5 hours streaming.
  • Flexibility: Because they are removable, the rechargeable batteries can be easily replaced by standard disposable hearing aid batteries in the event of an emergency. The hearing aids can run on the disposables until they can be recharged at night. It also means that when it comes time to replace them, you can do it at home.
  • Safety: Silver-zinc is non-flammable, non-toxic and 100% recyclable.
  • Smaller hearing aids: Higher energy density means a silver zinc battery can come in a smaller package than comparable lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. This simply means smaller hearing aids. 
  • Backward Compatible: The technology is backward compatible in at least one case and it can be added as an after market system. 

As you can see, there is a lot to think about when it comes to rechargeable hearing aids, not least what type is right for you. Each system has its pros and cons, and I don't think you should be afraid of them. If you are interested in which is the best hearing aid system for you, give us a call and we can talk you through them.