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Rechargeable Hearing Aids

Time to Read: 10 minutes

In the past decade or so, there has been some experimentation with rechargeable hearing aids. Most notably Siemens (now Signia) and GN Resound (who later stopped using these batteries). Siemens uses an older nickel-metal-hydride battery, which delivers about 8-10 hours of use per charge.

In 2017, everything started to change in regards to rechargeable hearing aids. A company called ZPower ®  started gaining traction with their rechargeable Zinc-Air hearing aid battery. Phonak launched their Lithium-Ion rechargeable B-R range of hearing aids. They were quickly followed by Signia with their Lithium-Ion Cellion range of hearing aids.

So, today we essentially have two camps of rechargeable hearing aids. One is based on Lithium-Ion, while the other is based on ZPower’s ® rechargeable Zinc-Air solution.

  • Lithium-Ion
  • ZPower® Silver-Zinc
  • Unitron Rechargeable Hearing Aids
  • Oticon
  • Starkey
  • Widex
  • Pros and Cons

Lithium-Ion:

Lithium-Ion batteries are built into the hearing aids and cannot be removed by the user. You simply put the hearing aid in the charger overnight. By doing so you receive 24 hours of use from the rechargeable hearing aid including some use while streaming. These batteries are designed to last at least 2 to 6 years, depending on brand but are replaced when the hearing aids go to the manufacturer for repair or servicing.

Pricing options differ between suppliers. Phonak includes the charger in its pricing, whereas Signia and GN Resound do not. It’s important to make sure any quotes include the charger, as the hearing aid won’t function without it. As a rule, we quote our hearing aid prices including the charger, so there are no nasty surprises. 

Lithium-Ion hearing aid batteries are controlled by a chip, so you shouldn’t have any issues with over-charging or exploding batteries. Due to the small size of the batteries, they are also safe to fly with.

Lithium Ion is available in most hearing aid brands, including Signia, GN Resound, Oticon, Starkey, Bernafon, Sonic Innovations, Unitron and Phonak.

Some chargers have built-in or add on battery packs. This makes it great if you travel in places where a USB power point is not always available. 

ZPower ® Silver-Zinc:

ZPower ® is a company who have innovated by building a rechargeable silver-zinc battery solution that can be adapted to fit most suppliers’ hearing aids. The initial release is focused around size 312 batteries, but work is being done to release a size 13 model soon. ZPower ® also shows size 10 and 675 batteries on their website. So, watch this space.

The hearing aid manufacturer that wants to make use of the ZPower ® rechargeable option, needs to design a battery door that fits into the ZPower ® charger. The ZPower ® rechargeable hearing aid battery then replaces the normal hearing aid battery. A charger is included and the hearing aid user simply docks the hearing aid in the charger overnight. The charger is smart enough to detect if a normal zinc-air battery is in the aid instead of the rechargeable hearing aid battery. It will simply not charge in that event.

There are several manufacturers supporting Z-Power ® as it is a very easy and affordable way to turn popular hearing aids into rechargeable versions. Many brands also offer retrofit rechargeable kits for their hearing aids. It consists of a battery door, some rechargeable hearing aid batteries and the charger.

 

Pros and Cons

Rechargeable batteries, irrespective of type has the following general benefits over disposable batteries:

  • The are more environmentally friendly as there is less waste
  • They are easier to use as you don’t need to change the batteries all the time - this is especially helpful if deterity is an issue.
  • They are great for features such as Wireless CROS and Bluetooth connectivity, which tend to drain normal batteries quicker. 
  • Rechargeable batteries are currently reserved for hearing aids that fit on the ear, rather than in the ear. 

Note: Interestingly, cost savings are not one of the pros as rechargeable options are often more expensive over the life of the instrument than disposable types. This may change in time with economies of scale however.

Lithium-Ion:

Pros:

  • Can deliver over 24 full hours of charge including about 5 hours of streaming on a single 3 hour charge.
  • Quick charging - a quick 30 minute charge gives you 6 hours of use
  • Can last all day, not matter how full your day is.
  • There is no battery door, so the hearing aid is more moisture resistant than those with battery doors.
  • Safe
  • A single battery can last 5+ years - so no additional ongoing costs.
  • Very low risk of battery ingestion

Cons:

  • You either need a power point or a battery pack to ensure you don’t end up with a dead hearing aid when travelling.
  • The Lithium-Ion battery makes the hearing aid a bit bigger than ones with a standard size 312 or 13 battery.
  • It might need to be sent for repair when the battery requires replacement. 

ZPower ® Silver-Zinc:

Pros:

  • Fully recyclable
  • Safe
  • Aid is smaller than Lithium-Ion Counterpart
  • Gives up to 12-16 hours use with 5 hours streaming on a 4 hour charge
  • Disposable batteries can still be used as back-up

Cons:

  • No Quick Charging, so if you forget to charge them, you are out of luck, unless you are willing to wait a while.
  • Needs replacing every 6 to 12 months at a cost of about $100-$150 per pair
  • Water can still get into the battery door
  • It appears that you can actually short out the rechargeable cell by accident, costing you $50 per cell to replace!
  • Easy to lose the expensive battery - you’ll need to remember to remove it when aid goes in for repair.
  • Makes the aid a bit longer than non-rechargeable versions to accommodate charging contacts.
  • Risk of battery ingestion still exists as the battery is removable.

 

Now that rechargeable batteries have been around for a few years, it appears that Lithium Ion is set to become the clear winner for convenience and benefit. Z Power seems to be quickly losing ground due to frequent issues with repairs and battery cell life. 

Fuel Cell Technology

Widex currently has a fuel cell powered hearing aid going through the FDA approval process.The aid has a special methane based charger, which charges the aid in around 20 seconds. It requires no power ot charge at all. It does however require special methane cartridges, which may increase the cost of this option. The cartridge then becomes a replacement for the battery cells, so I am still unclear of the true benefits, despite the impressive technology behind it. 

Call us today on 1800 157 429 o get a quote on a rechargeable hearing aid best suited to you.