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Rethinking rechargeables

By JEFFREY L. BAYLIFF

From time to time, I repeat a topic I have written about before. I will soon celebrate being open for business eight years here in Lock Haven and writing a monthly column on hearing health care for just as long.

The last time I wrote about rechargeable hearing aid technology I was not an enthusiastic cheerleader for the trend. Three years ago, I reserved rechargeable recommendations for someone with arthritic hands who would have trouble holding batteries or macular degeneration affecting their ability to see the batteries being inserted into the aids.

In addition, I was hesitant to offer rechargeables because the manufacturers only offered it in the top price technology and most companies were having troubles with the reliability of the charging units.

When I last commented on this topic in this column, rechargeable hearing aid technology had been out about ten years and it was still not the industry standard. In addition to limiting this option to the top price hearing aids the cost of the charging unit, usually $500 was added to the retail cost of the aids. For these reasons I had a very lukewarm interest in selling rechargeable hearing aids.

I find myself now reconsidering the charging options compared with the battery powered units for a number of reasons. First of all most hearing aid manufacturers have solved their charger reliability issues. Most make the chargers themselves instead of relying on third party vendors. Secondly, most manufacturers by the end of this summer will have rechargeable hearing aids available at all price levels not just the premium aids. Lastly, the wholesale cost of the charging units have come down in price to me so that most of time, depending on the brand, I can include it at not extra cost to my patients as they purchase the hearing aids. Batteries are not a tremendous cost. Most are near a dollar each at the big box stores and typically last for a week.

A watch battery can last a year, but hearing aid batteries provide power for amplification which draws the “juice” out faster, plus they are much smaller. Many hearing aid dispensers have battery incentives. I am part of a 10,000 member co-op so I can provide batteries to my patients for drastically lower prices than the big box stores, but this article is not a battery advertisement. Rechargeable hearing aid technology may be a now very good option.

These aids charge overnight so if you travel allot you would would need a power connection which might not always be applicable on RV trips if that applies to you. The chargers now take three hours to fully charge the hearing aids for a fourteen hour power life. So far this year about seventy five percent of my new patients have come through the door seeking rechargeable technology. To date, they seem very pleased. I wear hearing aids and still use batteries, but may switch to rechargeable soon.

Your hearing aid professional can guide you through all of your choices about powering hearing aids. If you have the symptoms of hearing loss let a professional help you find out why. The hearing professional will help you sort out the technology level to meet your need, your budget, and answer your hearing need questions.

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Jeffrey L. Bayliff, NBC-HIS is owner of Hear the Birds Hearing Aid Center, Lock Haven, PA

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