Super-charge your hearing with rechargeable hearing aid technology

 

Most hearing aid manufacturers now offer a range of rechargeable hearing aid options.  The main benefits of rechargeable technology relate to convenience and ease of use.  Battery changes can be very fiddly due to the small size of hearing aid batteries.  For a typical hearing aid user, disposable non-rechargeable zinc-air batteries need to be replaced fortnightly. Rechargeable hearing aids make management must easier and more convenient.  At night, wearers simply need to place their hearing aids in the charger and overnight the hearing aids are recharged and ready in the morning for the busy day ahead.

Currently due to the relatively high cost of the re-chargers and rechargeable batteries, they do not provide significant cost advantages over the cost of disposable zinc-air battery replacements. However, there are environmental advantages with rechargeable hearing aids reducing battery waste by using roughly 1 pair of batteries per year instead of nearly 52 batteries or more.

Currently rechargeable hearing aid technology is predominately used in behind-the-ear (BTE) and receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aid styles.  Most manufacturers offer rechargeable solutions where the batteries are recharged via direct contact with gold pins on the side or at the bottom (integrated into the battery door) of the hearing aids.

Signia recently released an inductive charging rechargeable hearing aid model that does not require any external pins or contacts. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery is charged by a magnetic field.  The advantage of this technology is that it is much easier to use and improves the reliability of the hearing aid.  Wearers do not need to line up contacts in a charger, they simply need to place the hearing aids on the charging station.

We believe this inductive charging technology is the future of rechargeability and opens the door for future rechargeability options for custom styles such as in-the-ear (ITE), in-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aids where battery contacts would be difficult due to integrate into the custom shell.

 

Types of rechargeable batteries

Currently there are three different types of rechargeable technology on the market: (1) Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH), (2) Silver Zinc (Ag-Zn) and (3) Lithium-ion.

 

Nickel Metal Hydride

Nickel Metal Hydride rechargeable technology has been the main rechargeable battery technology used in the industry until the last couple of years.  In fact, the Signia brand (formally Siemens) has had rechargeable BTE and RIC models using this technology in its range for over a decade.

rechargeable hearing aids caboolturePros

  • Wearers can choose whether to use rechargeable or standard batteries (zinc air)
  • Relatively cost effective – $20 to $30 per battery

Cons

  • Expected life is 500 cycles so the rechargeable battery needs to be replaced every 1-2 years
  • Relatively low capacity compared to the other rechargeable technologies so for power hearing aids or hearing aids that use Bluetooth, wearers may not get a full day of use before the battery goes flat

An example of a current hearing aid using this technology is the Signia Pure primax.

 

Silver Zinc 

More recently Silver Zinc rechargeable hearing aid technology has been grown in popularity.  The main reasons for its popularity is that, compared to Nickel Metal Hydride technology, it has a much higher capacity and therefore can provide a full day’s use, even with Bluetooth hearing aids as well as power hearing aids.  In addition, the technology can be retro fitted to many existing hearing aid models in the market with the addition of a special battery door with pins.

Pros

  • Wearers can choose whether to use rechargeable or standard batteries (zinc-air)
  • Can be retrofitted to many different hearing aid models

Cons

  • Expected life is 400 cycles so the rechargeable battery needs to be replaced every year
  • Annual replacement can be quite expensive ~$100 per battery
  • Retrofitted versions add size to the hearing aids as the battery door incorporate external pins.

Some examples of current hearing aids that can be retrofitted to use this technology include the Oticon Opn, Widex Beyond and Resound Linx 3D.

 

Lithium-ion 

Lithium-ion rechargeable technology is commonly used in consumer electronics due to its high capacity (relative to size), minimal memory effect and low self-discharge.   Only recently has this technology been utilised in hearing aids.  So far two manufacturers have released hearing aid models using lithium-ion technology.  In 2016, Phonak launched the Audeo B-R RIC and Signia launched the Cellion RIC.  The Phonak Audeo B-R RIC’s lithium-ion battery is charged via contacts, while the Signia Cellion RIC’s lithium-ion battery is charged inductively (no requirement for contacts).  In early 2018, Signia released a smaller version of its Cellion hearing aid called Pure “Charge&Go”.

As hearing aids improve in performance and utlise Bluetooth more and more, the requirement for a high capacity battery is critical.  Due to the significant advantages of Lithium-ion technology over the other rechargeable battery technologies, we feel more manufacturers will be releasing models using lithium-ion over the coming years and it will be the dominant rechargeable technology in this industry.  .

Pros

  • Highest capacity and suitable for more powerful hearing aids inc models using Bluetooth.
  • The batteries last at least four years and can be replaced by the manufacturer.
  • Low charging time means a full charge can be achieved in 3-4 hours
  • Having no battery door that opens and closes means the housing is designed with less gaps improving water resistance and general reliability.

Cons

  • If the user forgets to charge the hearing aids, there is no option to use disposable batteries.

Some examples of current hearing aids that use this technology include the Phonak, Audeo B-R, Signia Cellion and Signia Pure Charge&Go.

At Sounds of Life we are an independent hearing aid clinic and have access to all the different types of rechargeable hearing aids on the market.  If you are interested in rechargeable hearing aid technology, we can discuss with you the wide range of options available so you can make an informed decision on which technology is best suited for your individual needs and circumstances.

About Sounds of Life

Sounds of Life Audiology is a leading, independent hearing aid specialist.  We offer affordable hearing aid pricing on quality hearing aids (including virtually invisible hearing aid technology) from the world’s leading brands including Siemens, Signia, Phonak, Starkey, Unitron, Resound, Bernafon, Oticon and Sonic Innovations.

Contact Us today on 1300 744 432

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