Why rechargeable hearing aids? Problems with mobility: YES! Saving money: NO!
Saving money by not buying hearing aid batteries (cells) at first seems like an attractive option, but there are some considerations before you commit to this choice.
There are two versions of rechargeable batteries:
- Rechargeable hearing aids cells that are the same size as replaceable ones, but it can be recharged. If your rechargeable hearing aid battery loses the charge, you can simply put in a regular battery, available in any drug store.
- Newer hearing aids have sealed lithium ion batteries, similar to mobile phones. They cannot be removed.
For hearing aids with either type of battery, there is the additional expense of a charger.
Replaceable Battery Cells
Hearing aids with a replaceable cell require you to buy a new cell yearly for $25+ per cell. Added to the cost of the charger, over a 5 year period this equates to about $36/year for recharge-ability. You can buy regular batteries for about the same price….
Lithium Ion Battery Cells
Newer hearing aids use lithium ion cells. Due to the bio-hazard, these batteries are fused inside the aid and are not user serviceable. These cells have a limited lifespan of 3-1/2 – 4 years. If your aids are out of warranty, this will mean an out-of-warranty ‘repair’ charge of $300 or more per aid just to get the batteries changed in an otherwise perfectly functional aid.
Despite manufacturer claims of a “full day’s wear”, that full day can be 8-10 hours. If you work all day and want to go out to dinner in the evening, you may find your hearing aids will be dead just as you’re ready to head out the door.
With hearing aids with lithium batteries that stream to your phone, the number of hours before needing a charge may be much less.
For those with drop-in rechargeable cells, you’ll need to keep some regular batteries handy just in case!
Don’t Forget Your Charger
When you travel, you must remember to bring along your charger. We’re not yet at the point where you can just ‘plug in’ like you might do with a smart phone. If you’re dashing out of the house to attend a funeral or emergency, odds are you’re going to forget that charger at home – and for major hearing aid manufacturers, you can’t just buy these at the local big box store.
Hearing aids with lithium ion batteries are currently more expensive. Check to see if the price quoted includes the price of the recharger.
Other rechargeable batteries are about $20+ each and replaced annually.
By comparison with regular batteries, if you get about 4 days out of a battery, you’ll use around 90 batteries a year. An 80 count package of high quality Rayovac batteries is about $27 so your total yearly battery expense is under $30.
If your recharger is broken or left behind at a motel somewhere, you’ll spend more than a couple of years’ worth of batteries to replace it.
If you have physical problems…
However, for those with mobility issues – Parkinson’s Disease is an example – being able to just ‘drop’ a hearing aid into a charger and not worry about those tiny batteries can be a true blessing. For those with tremors, regardless of the variety, we’d strongly recommend this – and we’ll encourage you to spend the extra money to eliminate one more barrier in your life.
As the technology improves, you can expect to see newer hearing aids with a longer recharge life – as well as better handling on replacement issues. There are also a few models on the market now that offer combined battery and recharger options but they’re still in their infancy and won’t be truly ‘ready for prime time’ for a couple of more years.
Think before you decide, particularly when it comes to rechargeables. The wrong choice could have consequences!