Posted by - Hearing Aids.

Hearing aid rechargeability is finally a thing

Consumers the world over have become accustomed to lithium-ion battery technology; the phone in your pocket, the watch on your wrist, the laptop on your desk, and maybe even the car in your driveway. The proliferation of lithium-ion batteries is no coincidence. Lithium-ion batteries provide an unbeatable combination of energy and power density, making them the standard for portable electronics and other energy-demanding tools and vehicles.

While rechargeable hearing aids have been available for many years, lithium-ion powered hearing aids have only been on the market for about two years. Previous generations of rechargeable hearing aids simply weren’t ready for prime time. Consumers experienced problems with short battery life, leading to less than one full day of power, and inconsistent power output, which caused hearing aids to malfunction on a regular basis. This led many consumers to give up in frustration, with many returning their hearing aids for credit.

Thankfully, modern rechargeable hearing aids have overcome all of the issues that plagued their predecessors. Phonak reports that its new generation of rechargeable hearing aids can easily last a full day (up to 36 hours), and thanks to the consistent power output of the lithium-ion battery technology, users won’t experience any of the malfunctions or intermittence that limited the older models.

Will rechargeable hearing aids become the new normal?

Earlier this year, Hearing Tracker surveyed 2,000+ hearing aid consumers and found that 9.7% reported wearing rechargeable hearing aids. However, when we asked the same group of 2,000+ consumers to rate the importance of rechargeability in hearing aids, 50% said the ability to recharge was “important,” “moderately important,” or “very important.” A survey conducted by the Hearing Industries Association back in 2015 indicated that 31% of non-users of hearing aids would be motivated to purchase hearing aids if rechargeability were an option. Between current and potential consumers, there is clearly a gap to fill, and with more and more high-quality rechargeable hearing aids hitting the market, that gap is expected to close.

The first rechargeable hearing aid family

Given the clear consumer demand, and advancements in lithium-ion technology, it’s no wonder hearing aid manufactures are releasing new high-end rechargeable hearing aids at a brisk tempo. While most manufacturers release one – maybe two – rechargeable hearing aids in any given hearing aid family, Phonak is the first to release rechargeable hearing aids across an entire family of behind-the-ear devices. This means rechargeable solutions for their latest Belong™ processing platform are now available for children and adults, and for almost any degree of hearing loss. With their new wireless CROS B-R, Phonak has even provided a rechargeable solution for those suffering from single-sided deafness.

Rechargeable now available for all hearing loss levels across the Belong platform

Fully-integrated rechargeability

The Phonak solution to rechargeability is a fully-integrated lithium-ion battery; this means no more opening and closing the battery door to activate your hearing aids and no more worrying about moisture corroding your battery contacts. For anyone living in a humid environment, or those who perspire excessively, this is a welcome layer of additional protection. While the batteries can be replaced by a hearing professional, Phonak states that their lithium-ion batteries should last around 6 years, long enough for most people to replace the hearing aids before the batteries.

No more battery door

The adjacent image shows the Audéo™ B-R on the left and the Audéo™ 312T on the right. Notice that the rechargeable Audéo™ B-R has no battery door at the base of the device. Battery contacts near the top of the Audéo™ B-R allow the device to be charged in the Phonak Charger Case or Mini Charger, discussed below. For those with limited manual dexterity or vision, manipulating the battery door and replacing the battery can be challenging.

How long do Phonak rechargeable batteries last?

Thanks to the high energy density of lithium-ion batteries, Phonak rechargeable hearing aids last up to 36 hours when fully charged. The best part? The average hearing aid user wears their hearing aids for 16 or 17 hours per day, which means it’s now possible to get two full days of hearing from one single charge. Here’s how the charge times break down:

Charge time versus use time

Charge for 15 minutes – Use for up to 3 hours use time
Charge for 90 minutes – Use for up to 17 hours use time (one full day)
Charge for 3 hours – Use for up to 36 hours use time (two full days)

How are the hearing aids charged?

Phonak has produced a couple of charging options for their line of Belong rechargeable hearing aids. The main charger is the “Charger Case,” which is a protective hard case with a built hearing aid dryer. The dryer function is a nice addition, and considering that all Belong rechargeable hearing aids come with an IP68 rating (the highest level of dust and water protection currently available for hearing aids), there should be minimal cause for concern for moisture-related damage.

Mini Charger

Phonak Mini Charger

Charger Case

Phonak Charging Case

Power Pack

Phonak Power Pack

While the Charger Case should be sufficient for general at-home use, Phonak has also introduced the Power Pack for those who need to use their hearing aids off the grid for more than a day or two (think camping trips, etc.). The Power Pack attaches to the bottom of the Charger Case to provide seven additional full charges. This should extend the life of your hearing aids for two full weeks (assuming average use of 17 hours per day).

The Phonak Mini Charger provides a second smaller charging option without the protective case or built in dryer. The Mini Charger isn’t meant to replace the Charger Case, but if you’re the type of person who occasionally forgets to charge their cell phone at night (like so many of us), the Mini Charger could serve as a backup charging option. You can place the Mini Charger anywhere with a wall socket or USB port to power it.

We’d love to hear from you

Do you currently wear Phonak lithium-ion hearing aids? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below to let us know how things are going. Is this your first pair of rechargeable hearing aids? Are you glad you made the switch? Are you experiencing the charging times and battery life reported by Phonak? Thanks in advance.

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