Hearing aids are certainly an improvement over the ear trumpet. But that unexpected extended beep in your ear that means your hearing aid battery is about to go dead can be annoying. This is especially true if you don’t happen to have any spares. The life of a hearing aid battery is unpredictable, even in controlled studies with many factors accounted for. One battery may last a week, another just two or three days. In part this is because the shorter-life battery may be defective, but it also depends on the kind of hearing aid you have, how you use your hearing aid, the kind of batteries you buy, the assistive-listening devices you may use.
Even controlled studies fail to accurately measure battery life, however. A 2013 article in Audiology Online reported that the real-life performance of most of the batteries tested deviated significantly from the standardized measurements reported by the manufacturers.
Among the factors that reduce battery viability are the kind of features that come with high-end hearing aids, like feedback canceling and noise reduction programs. The real battery sapper, however, is wireless streaming. Audiology Online found that the difference between consumption during “normal” use and in streaming mode was nearly double. For instance, if you are using your hearing aid to stream the audio from your TV, your battery is likely to go dead twice as fast. Adding to the confusion however, is the fact that this varies according to the device being used.
Here are some tips for getting longer life out of your batteries – and saving money.
*Open only when you’re ready to use. Hearing aid batteries come in four sizes (10, 13, 312 and 675). Each hearing aid style will use only one size. Most come in sealed packs with plastic tabs on the back of each battery. Don’t remove the tab until you are ready to insert the battery. As soon as the back of the battery comes into contact with air it is activated and using up energy.
*Store batteries in a cool, dry place. Always carry a packet of spares with you.
*Use clean hands to change the battery. Grease and dirt can damage the hearing aid.
*Open the battery door at night or anytime the hearing aid is not being used. This will not only minimize battery drain but spare your family and pets the whine of a hearing aid with battery intact but not being used.
*Don’t buy in bulk. Unopened batteries have a long shelf life but they do begin to deteriorate. I find that if I need to use my old hearing aid for some reason, I have to try two or three of my old batteries before I find one that is still working (even though they have not previously been opened). You can do this by buying a micro-battery hearing aid pack. This will include 6 to 8 packs of different brand, with about 48 batteries altogether. The cost varies, but it’s about $25 for eight brands.
*Shop around. Battery costs also differ significantly and it’s worth it to shop around. (Make sure that the discount isn’t because the battery pack is almost out of date.) Drug stores, big box stores like Costco and Walmart, electronics stores all sell batteries. You can check for the best prices online.
Hearing aid batteries are expensive. A pack of 48 will cost you around $30, depending on where you buy them. Keep in mind that the expiration date is important. If you’re not going to use 48 batteries in the course of a year, it’s probably better to buy them in smaller (and more expensive per item) quantities.
*Two gadgets that you may want: One is a keychain battery holder, which you can buy at Harris Communications for $1.50
The other is a battery tester. These vary in quality but they will show you if the battery you are about to install is dead, and sometimes if it’s dying. Some of the more expensive models will show you how much battery life is left. You can see different models on the Harris Communications website.
*Rechargeable hearing aid batteries are beginning to come on the market. Most reports say they last a full day. You can read more about rechargeable batteries in this article in Hearing Review. Audiology Online offers many caveats about using rechargeable batteries. It’s worth reading their article “Ask the Experts: Can I Put a Rechargeable Battery in My Hearing Aid” before you try them.
In the meantime, simple common sense will help extend the battery life: buy batteries with a distant sell-by date, turn off or open the battery door whenever the hearing aid is not being used, store in a cool dry place.
This article first appeared in a slightly different form on AARP Health.