Extending the life of hearing aid batteries

Extending the Life of Hearing Aid Batteries

Most hearing aids on the market today are powered by disposable zinc-air batteries.  For hearing aids to work properly, wearers need to replace their zinc-air batteries regularly, which can be quite costly over time.   In this article, we will discuss how to extend the life and get the best performance from zinc-air hearing aid batteries.

Why do hearing aids use zinc-air batteries?

There are two main reasons why zinc-air batteries are used in hearing aids.  Firstly, they have high energy density.  As hearing aids are designed to be small and discreet; it is important that they use batteries that are also small, but with enough capacity to run the hearing aid.  The energy requirements of a hearing aid far exceed that of other body-worn devices such as watches.  The second reason is that zinc-air batteries are relatively inexpensive to produce.  Given that zinc-air batteries often need to be replaced weekly, this is an important consideration.

Currently there are four main sizes of zinc-air button-sized batteries on the market.  These batteries have a coloured sticker tab which represents the size of the battery.  These sizes and colour coding are standard in the industry.  The most common size used globally is size 312 (brown).

How do zinc-air batteries work?

Zinc-air batteries work differently from traditional AA or AAA batteries that may be lying around the house. Not only as they much smaller, being “button” sized, they have a different battery chemistry that requires air to operate.  They work by oxidizing zinc with oxygen from the air.

You will notice that all zinc-air batteries have four fine holes on their positive side for this purpose.  Oxygen slowly passes through these holes once the sticker tab is removed.  As air enters the holes on the battery’s surface, the battery generates its power (see picture).

Optimising the performance of zinc-air batteries

There are several things you can do the optimise the lifespan of your zinc-air batteries.

Firstly, only use fresh batteries, i.e. ensure batteries are used within their “use by” date.  Fortunately zinc–air batteries have a long shelf life if sealed to keep air out.  They can be stored for up to 3 years at room temperature with little capacity loss if their seal is not removed.  The performance of zinc-air batteries degrades significantly if past their use-by date.

Secondly, allow enough “air up” time.  After the sticker tab is removed, allow the battery to sit for one minute before inserting the battery into the hearing aid.  This allows enough time for air to get into the battery.  Taking the tab off and immediately putting the battery in the hearing aid, limits the amount of air it is exposed to.  The consequence of this is that the battery may not work properly, as the voltage has not reached a level sufficient to power the hearing aid’s digital circuit.  If this happens, allow air to enter the battery (increasing its voltage) by opening the battery door.  After one minute, close the battery door.

Battery Life Expectancy

The expected life of a hearing aid battery in days, can have high variability depending on how often the hearing aids are used, the wearer’s hearing loss and what hearing aid features are being used (for example, Bluetooth streaming uses a lot of power).

In summary wearers can expect

Size 10:   3 – 10 days

Size 312:   3 – 12 days

Size 13:   6 – 14 days

Size 675:   9 – 20 days

For hearing aid wearers that like to test their hearing aid batteries, please be aware that although the package states a specific voltage (e.g. 1.45 volts), the tabbed voltage will be much lower (e.g. 1.1 – 1.3 volts).  After un-tabbing, voltage will rise enough to power a hearing aid.  The cell may need several hours to rise to maximum voltage.

Best Value Hearing Aid Batteries in Australia

At Sounds of Life we offer the best value hearing aid batteries in Australia.

Check out our great prices on the premium Power One batteries.  We offer special bulk pricing of $27.50 for ten cards (sixty batteries).

Batteries can be ordered directly from our website with free postage.

https://www.soundsoflife.com.au/shop-online/

Australia’s top-selling hearing aid battery brand, Power One is manufactured in the world’s largest and most up-to-date hearing aid battery plant in Ellwangen, Germany.  Power One batteries offer the highest quality and reliability, with an extremely long lifespan.

If you feel hearing loss is impacting your life contact Sounds of Life.

Contact us today on 1300 744 432 or via our contact form below:

    Your Name (required)

    Your Phone Number (required)

    Your Message

    About Sounds of Life

    Sounds of Life Audiology is a leading, independent hearing aid specialist.  We offer transparent and affordable hearing aid pricing on quality hearing aids (including virtually invisible hearing aid technology) from the world’s leading brands.

    Are Your Hearing Aids Working To Their Potential? The Importance Of Real Ear Measurements

    ear measurements brisbane

     

     

     

    Are your hearing aids working to their potential?

    The Importance of Real Ear Measurements

     

    The goal of a hearing aid fitting is to provide customised sound amplification that compensates for an individual’s hearing loss.  The basis for determining this customised amplification is an individual’s audiogram (hearing test).

    For most individuals with hearing loss, the degree of their hearing loss varies across the different frequencies (pitches).  Consequently, a hearing aid needs to be programmed to provide the correct amount of amplification at each individual sound frequency to precisely compensate for the hearing loss.  For example, for age-related hearing loss, hearing will often be worse in the higher frequencies compared to the lower frequencies.  In such cases, a hearing aid would need to be programmed to provide more high frequency amplification.

    First Fit

    When setting up a hearing aid for the first time, the audiologist will do an initial programming of the hearing aids using the hearing aid manufacturer’s software.  This initial programming is called a “first fit” and uses the individual’s hearing thresholds (audiogram) to determine a predicted target amplification response and the hearing aids a programmed to match this target.

    As the name suggests the “first Fit” is just the initial set-up.  To ensure the hearing aid is providing the correct amount of amplification at the individual’s eardrum, there are additional factors other than the individual’s audiogram that also need to be considered.  These factors include the physical characteristics of how the hearing aid is coupled to the individual’s ear (e.g. ear mould), as well as the physical properties of the individual’s ear canal (e.g. shape).

     

    Everybody’s ears are different and both the ear mould and ear canal shape can significantly influence amplified sound.  An accurate hearing aid fitting needs to consider all these factors so that the hearing aid provides the exact amount of amplification at the ear drum.  To do this an audiologist should conduct real ear measurements (also called probe microphone measurements or insertion gain) and fine-tuning.

     

    Real ear measurement and fine-tuning

    real ear measurementsFollowing the “first fit”, audiologists should measure the hearing aid’s amplification in the ear canal close to the ear drum.  This involves placing a tube called a probe-tube, deep into the ear canal, approximately 12 mm from the ear drum (tympanic membrane).  This tube is connected to a sensitive microphone and has the role of measuring sound levels near the ear drum.  With the hearing aid inserted and turned on, the audiologist can then make accurate measurements at the eardrum of how much the hearing aid is amplifying sound across the range of frequencies. Based on these real ear measurements, the audiologist can then fine-tune the hearing aid to provide the optimal amplification response to optimise speech clarity and wearing comfort.  Further fine-tuning may also be done based on the individual’s personal sound preferences.

    Real ear measurements are an important procedure to ensure that hearing aids are precisely programmed and customised to account for both an individual’s hearing loss and their physical anatomy.   Unfortunately to save time, many hearing clinics do not use real ear measures and simply rely on the “first fit” in the hearing aid manufacturer’s software.   If you are in the process of getting hearing aids make sure you request your audiologist use real ear measurements.

    At Sounds of Life Audiology we quite regularly see clients who have purchased hearing aids elsewhere who are unhappy with their performance.  One of the first things we will do is conduct some real ear measurements to see what the hearing aids are doing.  Often these measurements reveal that the hearing aids were not programmed properly for the client.  By simply reprogramming and fine-tuning the hearing aids based on the real ear measurement results we are often able to solve the client’s problems without them having to invest in a new set of hearing aids.

    At Sounds of Life we believe in providing hearing aids that are fully customised and optimised for wearers.  We use real ear measurements as a standard procedure for every hearing aid fitting.  It is only by doing this can we be sure we are making the most of the impressive hearing aid technology that is available today.

    If you feel hearing loss is impacting your life contact Sounds of Life.

    Contact us today on 1300 744 432 or via our contact form below:

     

      Your Name (required)

      Your Phone Number (required)

      Your Message

       

      About Sounds of Life

      Sounds of Life Audiology is a leading, independent hearing aid specialist.  We offer transparent and affordable hearing aid pricing on quality hearing aids (including virtually invisible hearing aid technology) from the world’s leading brands.

       

       

      Why can’t I wirelessly stream audio from my Android phone directly to my hearing aids?

       

       

       

      Why can’t I wirelessly stream audio from my Android phone directly to my hearing aids?

       

      Wireless audio streaming has become very popular for hearing aid wearers over the last couple of years.  Hearing aid wearers can turn their hearing aids into virtual headsets and experience the convenience of wirelessly listening to music or taking phone calls from their mobile phone.

      Direct audio-streaming is the ultimate in convenience, as wearers do not need to wear an additional accessory.   Audio is wirelessly streamed from the audio device (e.g. mobile phone) directly into the wearer’s hearing aids.  Currently most hearing aid models support “Made for iPhone” technology enabling direct audio-streaming (without an intermediary device) from Apple iPhones.  However, unfortunately this direct audio-streaming technology has not been available broadly with Android phones.  Most hearing aids support audio-streaming from Android phones using an intermediary (relay) device.

      The following article provides a current overview of the status direct audio-streaming with Android phones.

       

      Background and Challenge

      Bluetooth is a wireless networking protocol designed to wirelessly connect devices together.  Bluetooth is used to connect computer peripherals (like mice, keyboards, printers etc) to a computer, as well as connect accessories like headsets (for hands free operation) to mobile phones.

      Most phones currently support Bluetooth 4.2 and its two variants: Bluetooth Classic and Bluetooth Low energy.  Unfortunately, neither type is suitable in their native state for allowing wireless audio-streaming to hearing aids

       

      • Bluetooth Classic is ideal for connecting mobile phones to Bluetooth headsets for phone calls. Unfortunately, Classic Bluetooth’s power consumption is too high to support hearing aids1
      • Bluetooth Low energy (BLE) is an ultra-low power version of Bluetooth meant for low power sensors and accessories. Unfortunately, the standardized BLE, implemented in all modern phones, does not support audio streaming.

       1 unless significant compromises are made

       

      So how does Apple mobile phones support direct audio-streaming?

      Apple’s iPhone was the first phone to offer direct wireless audio-streaming to hearing aids supporting their “Made of iPhone” standard.  As mentioned, because Bluetooth Low Energy does not support audio streaming in its native state, Apple created its own (proprietary) Bluetooth Low Energy version that did (it’s called ABLE).  Using this technology iPhones can stream audio directly to all “Made for iPhone” hearing aids.

      http://www.idownloadblog.com/2017/08/03/apple-bluetooth-low-energy-audio/

      Currently all major hearing aid manufacturers have models support this “Made for iPhone” standard.  https://support.apple.com/en-au/HT201466

       

      What about direct streaming with Android mobile phones?

      We all know that most of the world’s mobile phones run Android (estimated at 85 percent).  Consequently, there is certainly demand from hearing aid wearers for direct audio streaming from their Android devices.  However, Android fragmentation has made it difficult for hearing aid manufacturers to provide support to Android devices.

      As discussed above, the standard Bluetooth protocols used in Android phones (and many other audio consumer products) are not suitable to stream audio to hearing aids.  However, recently one hearing aid manufacturer, Phonak, managed to offer direct wireless audio streaming from Android phones albeit with some compromises.

       

      Phonak Marvel Hearing Aids Offering Direct and Android Audio-Streaming

      Recently Phonak released a range of hearing aids on its latest Marvel platform.  The new platform uses a new chip called SWORD (stands for Sonova Wireless One Radio Digital Chip).  This proprietary radio chip supports direct audiostreaming using the Bluetooth Classic protocol.  This ensures Phonak Marvel hearing aids are compatible with any mobile device supporting Bluetooth 4.2 (and the Hands-Free Profile).

      It is important to note that due to some technical limitations the hearing aids do have some compromises.  Firstly, compared to other wireless hearing aids, battery consumption is higher.  In addition, some high-performance binaural audiology features are not available with Marvel hearing aids (e.g. being able to select the direction of directionality).

       

      Will there ever be hearing aids that support wireless audio-streaming from Android phones without such compromises?

      The good news is that recently Google released Android 10 that supports a new hearing aid protocol for Android phones called Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (or ASHA).  ASHA is currently supported by the Google Pixel 3 range of smartphones.  The protocol aims to provide energy-efficient, high-quality audio streaming with low latency:

      https://android-developers.googleblog.com/2018/08/streaming-support-spec-for-hearing-aids_16.html

      Currently two hearing aid models support this ASHA standard and offer direct streaming with compatible Android phones; ReSound LiNX Quattro and Starkey Livio.  It is expected that given the new Android specification is open source, most hearing aid manufacturers will quickly follow suit during 2020 by releasing hearing aids that support this protocol.

       

      About Sounds of Life

      Sounds of Life audiology is a member of Audiology Australia and Independent Audiologist Australia. We adhere strictly to Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics.   We pride ourselves on:

      • Being fully independent – We are not owned or operated by a hearing aid manufacturer or large chain.
      • Ethical Practices – We are focused on providing the highest level of care and do not pay commissions.

      We also follow the Australian Government Hearing Services’ protocol for hearing services.

       

      If you feel hearing loss is impacting your life contact Sounds of Life.

      Contact us today on 1300 744 432 or via our contact form below:

       

        Your Name (required)

        Your Phone Number (required)

        Your Message