Though hearing aids are incredibly powerful devices, they are small, and their batteries are even tinier. As such, you can easily lose or misplace them. But their size presents another danger – the possibility of being swallowed by young children or pets. If this happens, the consequences can be severe.
Dangers of swallowing hearing aids or batteries
In most cases, the item should pass through the digestive system safely. Still, in rare instances, they can pose more serious threats. Despite their small size, hearing aids and batteries can become lodged in the throat or esophagus, posing a choking hazard. But that’s not the only danger.
Batteries are made of various metals and chemical compounds that can result in significant health risks if ingested. For instance, if a child or pet swallows a battery that contains lithium, it can cause serious, and sometimes life-threatening injuries. In addition to the toxic properties of lithium batteries, saliva can trigger an electric current in the batteries causing severe burns.
Other battery types, such as zinc-air, are less hazardous but still pose a risk since they can contain trace amounts of mercury. During the digestion process, the battery casing can disintegrate, leading to mercury poisoning.
Given the potentially lethal effects of swallowing a hearing aid battery, it is imperative that you bring a child to the emergency room or a pet to a veterinarian immediately. If possible, bring the battery packaging so the medical professionals can better evaluate the risk based on the battery type. It is important not to induce vomiting, and that the child or pet refrain from eating or drinking until instructed by a doctor. You’ll also want to make note of any symptoms, such as fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, or blood in the stool.
Once under professional care, an X-ray will determine the position of the object and gauge the risk of corrosion. Doctors will also decide whether the hearing aid or battery will need to be removed through surgical intervention, or if it’s safe to let it pass through the body naturally.
You’ll also want to keep numbers for the National Button Battery Ingestion Hotline (202-625-3333) and the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) handy, since these resources can provide further guidance on how to respond.
While accidents can always happen, you can do several things to minimize the chance of your hearing aids or batteries being ingested. For one, make sure they’re placed in a closed drawer or cabinet out of reach for young children and pets when not in use. Leaving them out in the open (e.g., on a dresser or nightstand) makes them more accessible to kids and pets, and more susceptible to being knocked onto the floor.
To further protect your pets from swallowing your hearing aid batteries, be extra careful when disposing of them. Rather than putting them in the garbage can that can be knocked over or dug through, you can recycle the batteries. Many municipalities collect batteries for recycling. Visit Call2Recycle.com to find battery drop-off locations near you.
Being proactive is key to avoiding the danger of a child or pet swallowing your hearing aids or batteries. Understanding the risks and knowing how to prevent them will help you keep children and pets safe, and ensure your hearing aids and batteries are exactly where you want them.