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Rechargeable Hearing Aid Survey


Consumers are warming up to the idea of using rechargeable hearing aid batteries in place of the disposable zinc-air batteries required by most modern hearing devices. According to a recent Hearing Tracker survey, new rechargeable technologies – that provide longer battery life in smaller packages – are leading many hearing aid consumers to consider making the switch.

Hearing Tracker conducted the 600+ participant survey of consumers and hearing health professionals after two industry leaders, Phonak and Signia, each announced upcoming hearing aid models with built-in rechargeable batteries. Their announcements followed closely after the introduction of a retrofit rechargeable hearing aid battery product, ZPower, that is compatible with several popular models of typically non-rechargeable hearing aids. All the new products provide more than a day of use before recharging is required—clearing a battery-life hurdle that until now has held back many buyers from considering rechargeable technologies.

Disclosure: ZPower helped fund our survey with the goal of better understanding what features are most important to hearing aid users and how they would use rechargeable battery technologies. But Hearing Tracker conducted the blind survey independently and is publishing the results in its own independent report. This blog post provides an initial summary overview of the findings.

Rechargeable hearing aid batteries have been available for a long time.  So why haven’t they caught on with consumers until now? In the past, there have been problems with short battery life, limiting form factors, and inconsistent power output. Our survey, the first to provide comprehensive data on what features are important and why, provides timely perspective for consumers and hearing healthcare providers considering adoption of rechargeable hearing aid technologies.

Survey Results

Of the 510 hearing-aid owners who responded to the survey, 89% said their aids use non-rechargeable disposable batteries. But 70% said they would prefer rechargeable hearing aids, with 62% preferring hearing aids that could use either removable rechargeable batteries or standard non-rechargeable disposable batteries, and 8% indicating preference for rechargeable-only hearing aids:

Consumer preferences for rechargeable hearing aids

Which type of battery would you prefer for your hearing aids?

which-type-of-battery

However, users made it clear they also need their rechargeable hearing aids to meet the one-day-per-charge test. When asked to rate on a scale of one-to-five the importance of a “full day of power on a single charge,” the average response was near the top at 4.72:

Full day of power on a single charge

full-day-of-power

“Audiologists and other hearing health professionals have understood the benefits of rechargeable technologies for a long time, but they have been waiting for technology to catch up with the needs of users demanding longer battery life in smaller form factors,” said Abram Bailey, AuD, founder of Hearing Tracker. “Our survey data confirms users prefer rechargeable options and provides an optimistic outlook for acceptance of the new rechargeable hearing aid products that are finally starting to meet those threshold requirements.”

The new products coming to market utilize different technologies to deliver the performance customers want.

ZPower rechargeables

ZPower Battery

ZPower offers a retrofit rechargeable solution for many existing hearing aid models. The standard battery compartment on your existing hearing aids is replaced with a chargeable compartment, and sold with rechargeable silver-zinc batteries and a charger unit. ZPower is compatible with hearing aids from brands like Siemens, Phonak, Resound, and Beltone. See the full compatibility list.

Phonak B-R

Phonak Audéo B-R

Phonak recently announced the upcoming (August 2016) release of the Audéo B-R, touted as “the first mainstream lithium-ion rechargeable hearing aid.” Phonak claims the new Audéo B-R will last 24 hours on full charge, including up to 80 minutes of wireless streaming. The new product is built on “Belong,” the newest processing platform from Phonak. Phonak mini charger shown.

signia-cellion-primax

Signia Cellion primax

Also due for release later this month, the Cellion primax is billed as “the only inductive, wireless and contact-free chargeable hearing aid in the world.” Apparently one-upping Phonak on operating time, Cellion primax claims it can run for “at least 24 hours with unlimited streaming.” Both the Audeo B-R and the Cellion primax have sealed battery doors.

Hearing aid providers are clearly on the same wavelength as their patients. Of the audiologists and other hearing health professionals who completed the survey, fewer than half (47%) said they currently fit rechargeable hearing aids, but 82% said they plan on selling new rechargeable products in the future.

Providers who currently sell and plan to sell rechargeable hearing aids

The hearing aid providers also indicated they would like to see broad availability of rechargeable solutions. When asked to rate on a scale of one-to-five the importance of availability “across multiple platforms, both in technology and in price, the average response was near the top at 4.50:

Available across multiple platforms, both in technology and in price

available-across-multiple-platforms

Both providers and consumers indicated a strong preference for backup solutions enabling constant use of the hearing aids, without downtime for recharging during the day. Therefore, long battery life was a requirement for both groups, with a majority of providers indicating that, when the rechargeable battery loses power, they prefer the ability to use a disposable battery to get power instantly rather than a hearing aid with a built-in rechargeable battery, even one with a fast 30-minute charge:

Which option do you think your patients would prefer to regain power, if their rechargeable hearing aids lost power at an inconvenient time?

disposable-option

Consumers also made it clear in their comments they are ready for those and other features of rechargeable hearing aid batteries:

It’s easier to carry a couple of disposable batteries than a charger.

I don’t know if I would have 30 minutes to spare for a recharge in an emergency situation.

I would like to be served with options. In case of failure of the rechargeable battery I want to have the option to use the disposable batteries. I use hearing aids all the time and I prefer to always have a back plan.

I don’t have time to wait around for the battery to recharge. Especially at work.

No one wants to put their life on hold for any length of time so a battery can charge

And for hearing-aid providers, perhaps the best news came from the response to the question: “If you could purchase a system to make your current hearing aids rechargeable, which of the following suppliers would you prefer?”  The answer from 61% of consumers? “Your hearing health provider.”

where-to-buy-rechargeable-hearing-aids

Clearly, the time is right for broader and faster acceptance of rechargeable hearing aid technologies. We are continuing to analyze the results from Hearing Tracker survey on rechargeable hearing aid battery technologies, so watch this space for more news and insight.

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