Rechargeable hearing aids have been around for years. Previous offerings have generally been the type that use the same shaped battery as usual, only one that is rechargeable. When the hearing aid was clipped into the recharger it opened the battery door and connected the battery so it could charge up.
Battery life on these was poor. Hearing aids not lasting through the day for those with a busy lifestyle was a constant issue. At least if they did run out you could then take that battery out and put a normal one in, but then that really defeated the object. Due to these issues they were never particularly popular.
Now Lithium-Ion technology has reached hearing aids, hurray! Now you can recharge your hearing aids just like you can your phone or tablet. There are a few convenience benefits as described in my pro-rechargeable article, but really there is only one winner, the hearing aid manufacturers.
I know many people with hearing aids that are 6+ years old. They may not be the latest technology anymore but they work and provide good hearing. I don't know many people using a mobile phone that old and a big reason for that is battery life. These Lithium-Ion batteries that power many of our devices start out lasting for a good amount of time. Within a year or two your phone battery is running out halfway through the day and you find yourself looking for a new one.
Looking at the specifications of the new rechargeable hearing aids from Phonak for example. Battery life for the average user is 24 hours from a full charge. Even if you factor in a bit of bias and their "ideal testing conditions" I would hope you'd get 20 hours charge. But what will that be like in a few years time? Phonak list 4 years for their battery life but other than that details are thin. How does it degrade in the meantime? Can you have the hearing aid disassembled and a new battery installed after that? What would the cost be? At this stage we don't know.
I think that this is genius if your business is making or selling hearing aids. Having people buy new ones twice as often as they would do otherwise is great for business. I expect the other manufacturers to bring out rechargeable aids in the near future. Siemens have some coming out soon.
You might think that we are somewhat shooting ourselves in the foot here as our business also involves the selling of hearing aids. Our priority, as always, is good advice. As any of you who have seen one of our audioligists will know, we provide what is right for you.
My conclusion is that if you have dexterity issues and can't change hearing aid batteries, certainly get some. You might want to keep up with the latest technology and would buy new hearing aids every few years anyway, then rechargeable may be for you. Otherwise, avoid.
Author: David Roberts
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