In my last post I introduced one of the first considerations in choosing a hearing aid, which is selecting the physical style that’s best for you.
This post explores the different types of rechargeable hearing aid technologies on the market, and why some of my clients have recently chosen the Phonak Audéo™ Marvel.
All hearing aids are operated by batteries, and up until recently, almost all hearing aids ran on disposable batteries, the smallest of which need to be changed more than once per week.
With Receiver-in-canal (RIC) and Behind-the-ear (BTE) style hearing aids, rechargeability is becoming a standard option across all hearing aid brands. The latest generation of rechargeable hearing aids fall into two categories: lithium-ion and silver-zinc.
Here are some things to consider.
Historically, silver-zinc technology was recommended over lithium-ion for people who wanted the convenience of rechargeability but needed the option of swapping the rechargeable cell for a disposable one, for example if they were camping or otherwise didn’t have access to power.
In the last year however, several manufacturers have started offering portable charging cases for lithium-ion hearing aid models, and this has turned out to be a really convenient option.
Convenience and ease of use
For some people, the need to regularly change disposable batteries is only an inconvenience, but for those with poor dexterity, this can be a major barrier to being able to successfully use a hearing aid at all.
Silver-zinc models run on a rechargeable button cell that fits into the battery compartment of a RIC or BTE hearing aid, with a specially designed battery door that connects to a charger. Lithium-ion models have a completely enclosed rechargeable battery. They slot into a charger between uses and some models charging inductively, with no contacts on the outside. Both types are equally easy and convenient to use... when they are working normally.
Like any other technology, hearing aids don’t work perfectly all the time. If a silver-zinc hearing aid stops charging for example, the cause for this could be one or a combination of 4 things – the hearing aid, the button cell, the battery door or the charger. When a lithium-ion hearing aid stops charging, the problem will be one of only 2 things – the hearing aid or the charger.
Having clients with both types of technology, I’m inclined to make a recommendation for lithium-ion over zinc-air when all other considerations are equal, because lithium-ions are less of a headache for the client when things aren’t working perfectly.
Up until recently, the size difference between silver-zinc and lithium-ion hearing aid models was significant. For clients who wanted the smallest and most discreet option possible, the silver-zinc options available tended to be slimmer in profile than the silver-zinc ones. With lithium-ion hearing aids becoming significantly smaller in the last year, this difference has shrunk almost to the point of insignificance.
Battery life and battery life cycle
Lithium-ion hearing aids last longer on a single charge than their silver zinc counterparts. Unlike the silver-zincs, which need the button cell replaced at least once per year, the battery in a lithium-ion hearing aid is expected to last for the warranty period of the device, usually 3 years.
For my clients who have been looking for a RIC-style hearing aid with reliable rechargeability in small package, the Phonak Audéo™ Marvel has been high on the list of options. There are other things to consider in addition to this though, and I’ll introduce the next one soon.