Whether you’re interested in rechargeable hearing aids because you have difficulty handling traditional hearing aid batteries, or you want a “greener” power option, most of the major hearing aid manufacturers, including Widex, ReSound, Oticon, Phonak and Starkey, now offer rechargeable hearing aid options. But let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of this technology.
Advantages of Rechargeable Hearing Aids
Rechargeable hearing aid technology has been around longer than you might think - about a decade. But until recently, battery life was limited to a few hours. Plus, the batteries made the hearing aids bulkier, and recharging wasn’t always convenient. Fortunately, recent changes in rechargeable technology have made these systems more appealing and accessible for hearing aid wearers. In general, rechargeable hearing aids:
- Offer technological advances beyond the battery, including improved signal processing and more automatic adjustments. These help you hear better and more comfortably in complex listening situations, like in the car, social settings, talking on the phone or watching TV.
- Can be more convenient for patients who struggle with vision and/or dexterity when replacing tiny traditional hearing aid batteries.
- Use either integrated lithium-ion batteries or field changeable silver zinc batteries. These batteries can hold a charge for around 24 hours of use. Batteries require recharging every night by placing them in a charging station. If you stream a lot of audio, the batteries may not last a full 24-hour day.
Different Manufacturers Offer Different Advantages
Specific hearing aid manufacturers offer features to appeal to different consumers. For example, Widex rechargeable hearing aids use the ZPower rechargeable system, which means these hearing aids can run on standard disposable hearing aid batteries, if needed. This gives the hearing aid wearer a viable back-up if they forget their charger or to charge their hearing aids the night before. Silver-zinc also is non-flammable, non-toxic and 100 percent recyclable.
This feature allows a user or your audiologist to use either type of battery which is easier for troubleshooting if a device isn’t working. Other manufacturers, like Phonak and Starkey incorporate the rechargeable battery into the hearing aid itself so it cannot be changed or checked within the clinic, and would need to be sent for repair or inspection if concerns arise.
What’s the Best Rechargeable for You?
Lithium-ion rechargeables are simple to use and meet most consumers’ requirement to stay “charged” for a full 24 hours. Silver-zinc rechargeables do the same, but do provide the back-up option of disposable batteries for those worried they might run out of power, or to use when troubleshooting a possible problem. Currently, there are some restrictions on the power level/amplification level of rechargeable options, and they don’t come in all styles. So rechargeable options have more limitations in available size/style of hearing aid, as well as the overall power level, which is typically for more mild to moderate types of hearing loss.
Is There a Cost Savings with Rechargeable Hearing Aids?
In most cases, the cost of rechargeables and traditional hearing aid batteries are about the same. Your initial investment when choosing rechargeable will include the charger and the cost of the first rechargeable battery or batteries. The rechargeable battery life will depend on the type of rechargeable battery your hearing aids use. The annual/routine cost of replacement rechargeable batteries is currently about the same as disposable batteries. In some cases, manufacturers will charge a regular out-of-warranty repair cost any time the rechargeable battery needs replacement, which may vary from $250-350 per repaired device. Bottom line, rechargeable hearing aids are now an option many consumers prefer over traditional disposable batteries.