Ask the Audiologist: How do I choose the best rechargeable hearing aid?
It wasn’t so long ago that one of the major roadblocks to hearing aid adoption was the need to deal with the batteries. They are tiny, they can be challenging to remove from and insert into the hearing aid, and they are expensive compared to the typical AA- or AAA-sized batteries. For those with visual or dexterity limitations, they pose even more of a challenge.
Thankfully, there are now many rechargeable hearing aids available that make them significantly easier to use and handle. But not all rechargeable hearing aids are created equal. Here is the breakdown on what look for when choosing the best rechargeable hearing aid.
Different types of power cells
There are different kinds of rechargeable hearing aid batteries or power cells. The best available are the lithium-ion (Li-ion) power cells, the same kind used in smartphones and other small rechargeable electronics, and our new Pure® Charge&Go hearing aids. These are popular for a reason—they are compact, long-lasting, and have no memory effects (when batteries are regularly recharged before they’re depleted, and thus lose their maximum energy capacity). They can also be sealed in the hearing aid their entire lifetime, so wearers don’t ever have to worry about changing batteries.
Two other types of rechargeable hearing aid batteries are also commonly available, but they are arguably less ideal. Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) cells are a long-proven type of rechargeable battery, but their capacity is still limited so they are better suited for milder hearing losses. Meanwhile, silver-zinc (AgZn) batteries last longer on a single charge. But unlike NiMH cells, they are not interchangeable with disposable zinc-air batteries, and can only be used with dedicated hearing aids with a down-converter. This means hearing aids designed for AgZn batteries tend to be larger.
Most conventional hearing aid chargers use galvanic charging, which relies on metal contacts on the charger to physically touch their counterparts on the hearing aids to charge. This also means that unless the contacts are aligned properly, charging errors can occur.
Wireless, or inductive charging, on the other hand, works via electro-magnetic induction and allows for a completely sealed battery module. This is arguably the more desirable charging method because it eliminates cables, connectors, and electrodes on the instruments. Practically speaking, inductive charging offers the wearer many advantages because it minimizes charging errors and eliminates the need to open and close the battery door.
The hearing aid
Finally, don’t let the hunt for the best rechargeable hearing aid make you lose track of the most important reason for your hearing aid purchase. Your priority should always be finding the hearing aids that help you to hear as well as possible in any situation.
Does the hearing aid help you hear speech clearly in challenging, noisy situations? Does it allow for easy streaming of phone calls and other audio sources such as TV and music? Does it provide a pleasant and natural sound quality of sounds in the environment and your own voice? Your hearing care professional can help you ensure that the rechargeable hearing aid you want also satisfies all these criteria.