By Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D.
We get many questions about how long hearing aid batteries should last. There is not one answer that works for every patient. This is because every person is unique when it comes to their degree of hearing loss, their personal listening environments, and how they use the device. All of these factors combine to make a person’s hearing loss unique. No one person is going to have exactly the same battery life as another.
The first major factor that affects battery life is an individual’s hearing loss. As the severity of hearing loss increases, the hearing instrument is required to amplify sounds more, which increases the amount of current that the instrument requires, which reduces battery life. An individual’s severity of hearing loss is a large factor that affects battery life.
Another factor is the battery size. We all know that hearing aids are becoming smaller, so, the smaller the device, the smaller the battery needs to be. As a battery’s physical size decreases, so does the amount of the zinc that can fit inside the battery. The more zinc in the battery, the longer the battery will last..
Another major factor that affects battery life is an individual’s hearing aid usage. How many days a week do they wear their hearing aid? We all know some people who wear their hearing aids religiously every day, but we also know others who might only wear their hearing aid on Sunday morning for an hour. People love to talk about getting so many days’ worth of life out of their batteries. Yet to one person, a day is 8 hours and to another person a day is 16 hours. Here is an illustration about why it is important to get an accurate estimate of a person’s usage to understand how long a battery can last. Let’s say Person A gets five days out of their hearing aid battery and Person B gets seven days. Which hearing aid battery lasts longer? To answer that correctly, you need more information. Assume Person A wears their hearing aid 16 hours a day, but Person B only wears it 8 hours a day. The correct answer then would be Person A, because they got 80 hours out of their battery versus 56 hours for Person B. When talking to people about battery life, it is more accurate to use a common measurement of time, such as hours instead of days to compare battery life.
Today’s hearing instruments demand more power. Hearing aids now contain many more features and accessories. These include things like using hearing instruments and accessories to watch TV or to use cellphones to listen to personal music. All these factors increase the amount of electrical current that the instrument demands. When you add in the digital features in today’s hearing instruments, they can reduce battery life by 20%. The premium features like looping, FM, tinnitus programs, wireless and Bluetooth features that give a people a better experience all require additional energy. When in use, they can increase the current draw up to 300%, rapidly reducing battery life.
How batteries are stored is quite important. Number one, store the hearing aid batteries at room temperature. Avoid extreme temperatures and do not store them in the glove compartment of the car, in a sun room, or the refrigerator; these extreme temperatures can affect battery life.
It is important that hearing aid batteries are stored in the original packing or in a battery caddy. One of the reasons for that is that metal objects like coins and keys can short out the batteries. It is not a good idea, even with the tab on, to have batteries loose in anyone’s pocket or purse, and we do not want the batteries to touch each other during storage. Always make sure that fresh or discarded batteries are stored in places that cannot be reached by infants or children. This is something that is true with any small coin or button cell, but is extremely important with this type of product because we know many grandparents are using these devices and small children could be around at anytime.
Another key factor affecting battery life is the environment. Zinc-air cells are sensitive to environmental conditions, such as temperature and the presence or absence of humidity. For example, if you live in a very dry climate or use your furnace in the winter, the batteries can dry out more quickly. The opposite effect could also happen with high humidity. Batteries will absorb moisture through the holes in the battery, which can shorten their life and lead to leakage. A lower temperature results in lower hearing aid battery voltage; in other words, it reduces battery life. This could be an issue if you are working outside in the winter or if you happen to have a patient who works in refrigeration all day; both of these environments can result in shortened battery life. As altitude increases, the percentage of oxygen in the air is reduced. If you are up in the mountains, there is less oxygen in the air, and that can potentially cause the battery to die earlier. If you combine altitude with low temperature, it can be even more extreme.
Removing the sticky tab activates the battery as air enters through the holes. After the tab is removed, the battery literally requires a moment to “catch its breath.” As air begins to enter the battery, it becomes activated. We always recommend that you let the battery sit for 5 minutes before you insert it into the device and shut the door. This is important because it allows the battery to fully activate and ensures that you will not have start-up problems with your hearing aid.
The combination of all these factors produces a wide range of battery life expectancies. In a recent market survey device users were asked how long their hearing aid batteries last. For size 10 batteries, people were experiencing anywhere from 3 to 10 days; for size 312, from 3 to 12 days; for size 13, from 6 to 14 days; for size 675, from 9 to 20 days.
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Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D., owner and audiologist at Advanced Hearing Solutions in Englewood, FL is a licensed professional whose 30 year career has been devoted to helping people of all ages hear and understand more clearly. Dr. Crosby received her BS and MS degrees from FSU and her Doctorate in Audiology from UF. Her credibility as an authority grew during her tenure as the Director of Audiology at the Silverstein Institute in Sarasota, FL from 1991-1998. Today, in addition to managing a successful audiology practice, Dr. Crosby is involved in creating hearing loss awareness through her jewelry and accessory company AuDBling.com. She has served and is serving on various professional boards and committees and was president of the Florida Academy of Audiology in 2000 and 2010. She has been married to Michael for 26 years and has one daughter.