Rechargeable Hearing Aids in 2020 [Ultimate Guide]
Wondering if rechargeable hearing aids might be right for you?
You’re not alone.
A recent survey by Consumer Reports indicated that 53% of hearing aid wearers consider rechargeability to be one of the most important features they look for when buying hearing aids.
With the average hearing aid wearer needing to change their batteries 120 times a year, and considering the improvements being made in rechargeable battery technology, the trend towards rechargeability shouldn’t come as a surprise.
In the last few years, rechargeable hearing aids have massively grown in popularity, and before you buy your next hearing aids, make sure you understand why.
This guide is going to give you expert-level knowledge on all things rechargeable hearing aids, along with what we’d consider the top 3 rechargeable hearing aids on the market.
- A Brief History
- Silver-Zinc Batteries
- Lithium-Ion Batteries
- Lithium-Ion vs. Silver-Zinc: Which is Better?
- Pros and Cons of Rechargeable Hearing Aids
- How Long do Rechargeable Hearing Aids Last?
- Are Rechargeable Hearing Aids Safe?
- Behind-the-Ear Rechargeable Hearing Aids
- In-the-Ear Rechargeable Hearing Aids
- Rechargeable Hearing Aid Accessories
- Cost of Rechargeable Hearing Aids
- Best Rechargeable Hearing Aids of 2020
- Conclusion: What’s Next for Rechargeable Hearing Aids?
A Brief History
Rechargeable hearing aid batteries are not a new concept- they’ve been around for 30 years.
However, for most of that time, they failed to gain broad acceptance and adoption among consumers and hearing care providers.
Rechargeable batteries just didn’t last long enough. Wearers found that their hearing aids would die before their day was through, effectively leaving them without hearing until their hearing aids were recharged.
For this reason, most hearing care providers were reluctant to recommend rechargeable hearing devices, believing they weren’t ready for prime time and that hearing aid wearers were better off using traditional disposable batteries.
But sentiment began to change around 2014, with the release of the first silver-zinc rechargeable hearing aid batteries.
Industry response was initially tepid, with many hearing care providers doubting the efficacy of any rechargeable hearing aid batteries, based on past experiences with previous rechargeable battery technology.
However, word started to spread that this new silver-zinc battery technology was superior than the rechargeable technology that came before it.
Consumer demand for improved rechargeable batteries, along with growing confidence in the technology among hearing providers, led to broad adoption of silver-zinc technology.
Within 3 years, almost all of the major hearing aid manufacturers had released hearing aids that were compatible with silver-zinc batteries.
Just as quickly as silver-zinc batteries rose in popularity, a combination of factors led to a quick shift away from this technology.
Within a few short years, battery and charger reliability issues began to surface and as a result, many hearing care providers stopped recommending silver-zinc batteries.
In fact by March of 2020, there were no major hearing aid manufacturers using silver-zinc batteries, and the leading company behind the technology had filed for bankruptcy.
However, during the rise in popularity of silver-zinc batteries, there was a new battery technology gaining traction.
Lithium-ion Rechargeable Batteries
There were two major hearing aid manufacturers that didn’t embrace silver-zinc technology, and by 2016 we knew why.
These hearing aids were well-received by both hearing aid wearers and hearing providers, and many in the industry began to view lithium-ion as the gold standard for rechargeable batteries.
By early 2020, every major hearing aid manufacturer had ditched silver-zinc batteries in favor of lithium-ion to power their hearing aids.
Advantages of lithium-ion rechargeable hearing aid batteries
- No more batteries- ever: Lithium-ion batteries are built-in to the hearing aids and they can’t be taken out. If your goal is to have hearing aids without batteries (at least batteries that you never have to fiddle with), lithium-ion is the technology for you. Choose it and you’ll never have to deal with those tiny batteries ever again.
- Excellent reliability: Lithium-ion batteries will last you all day. In fact, they’ll usually last a full 24 hrs. If you stream audio heavily from your phone or TV for several hours a day, you should still get 16 hrs of life from a full charge. Of the thousands of lithium-ion powered hearing aids we’ve sold, we’ve had only a handful of reliability issues, which were resolved by replacing the devices within the warranty period.
- Better durability: Since the hearing aid’s case is sealed, it is more resistant to moisture and dust. Another benefit of having a battery sealed inside the hearing aid (with no door), is there are less moving parts, compared to hearing aids with traditional batteries, so technically they should break less.
Unfortunately, some of the above factors which make lithium-ion a good choice, are the same reasons why they may not be a good choice for some people.
Disdvantages of lithium-ion rechargeable hearing aid batteries
- You can’t use traditional batteries: If for some reason you have to interrupt a full charging cycle and as a result your hearing aids run out of juice early, you can’t just pop in a new disposable battery. Your only option at that point is to put your hearing aids back in their charger and wait.
- You can’t replace the battery yourself (for now): Every 3-4 years you’ll have to get your battery replaced (like we do with laptops). This isn’t something that hearing aid users can do themselves- it’s something the hearing aid manufacturer does. This might cost up to $200+. However, it is looking like in the near future, you may be able to replace these batteries yourself, or with the assistance of your local hearing care provider (rather than mailing the hearing aid to the manufacturer).
Lithium-ion vs Silver-Zinc: Which is Better?
As of 2020, it’s indisputable, lithium-ion is better, and you’d be hard-pressed to find any silver-zinc powered hearing aids for sale.
You may find some silver-zinc hearing aids on the second-hand market (eBay), or even through a local hearing provider that needs to get rid of old stock.
If you’re interested in silver-zinc, you should keep in mind all of the above, but also check out the video below.
Pros and Cons of Lithium-Ion and Silver-Zinc Rechargeable Batteries
One thing to be aware of is that if you decide to buy silver-zinc rechargeable hearing aids, it may be very difficult to get these hearing aids serviced in the future, as manufacturers will likely only be carrying replacement parts and batteries for a few more years.
Pros and Cons of Rechargeable Hearing Aids
Above we looked at the pros and cons of lithium-ion vs. silver-zinc, but below we’ll look at the pros and cons of disposable vs. rechargeable batteries.
Advantages of Rechargeable Hearing Aids
- Convenience and ease of use: You just can’t beat the convenience of rechargeable hearing aids, and never having to replace batteries. Simply set the hearing aids in their charger station at night and wake up to fully-charged hearing aids that should last all day. For wearers with dexterity issues, rechargeable devices are a huge help.
- Environmentally friendly: It is estimated that about 1.4 billion disposable batteries go into landfills each year. A single rechargeable battery essentially replaces hundreds of single-use batteries, preventing a great deal of environmental contamination.
- Safer for kids and pets: Disposable Button batteries, like the kind that power hearing aids, are dangerous if swallowed by pets or children, but it happens thousands of times a year.
Disadvantages of Rechargeable Hearing Aids
- Dependency on your rechargeable battery: While rechargeable batteries are increasingly reliable and long-lasting, there is always the chance that your battery could die midday. For example, this may happen if you stream heavily from your TV or phone, or if you interrupt the previous night’s charging cycle.
- Additional cost: It’s a commonly held and incorrect belief that rechargeable hearing aids will save you money, as you don’t need to buy disposable batteries. However, rechargeable hearing aids usually have a higher upfront cost, and replacement rechargeable batteries can run up to $200 each.
- Fewer hearing aid styles to choose from: Most rechargeable hearing aids are the behind-the-ear style. If you want in-the-ear hearing aids and rechargeability, your options are severely limited.
How Long do Rechargeable Hearing Aids Last?
Rechargeable hearing aids last as long as hearing aids that use disposable batteries; 5-7 years.
They can certainly last longer than 5-7 years, though repairs will become more frequent. At the 5-7 year mark, we find that technology has advanced enough that most wearers choose to upgrade their hearing aids rather than pay for repairs on outdated hearing aids.
In terms of daily battery life, rechargeable hearing aid batteries last between 16 and 24 hours. Battery life will vary based on how much power the hearing aids are providing you (aka gain or amplification), and how much Bluetooth streaming you do.
Lithium-ion batteries have a lifespan of 3-4 years, at which time they’ll need to be replaced at a cost of roughly $200 each.
Protip: If you send your lithium-ion hearing aids to the manufacturer for service before your warranty has expired, the lithium-ion battery will be replaced at no cost to you, providing you another 3-4 years of life.
If your rechargeable batteries aren’t lasting long enough, follow these tips:
1. Ask your hearing aid provider if the problem could be “excessive battery drain,” or if your charger is faulty. Both of these issues can be easily fixed by the manufacturer.
2. Your hearing aids may be working unnecessarily hard. Ask your hearing provider if all the features in your hearing aids need to be activated all the time. There are some features which drain the batteries quickly, such as features which require the hearing aids to communicate with each other. Disabling some of these features, and then manually enabling them when necessary, can save battery life.
3. Always store your hearing aids indoors at room temperature, and don’t store your hearing aids or charger next to a heating or cooling source.
Are Rechargeable Hearing Aids Safe?
All batteries (disposable or rechargeable), have some inherent dangers.
If a child accidentally swallows a battery, you need to immediately head to the ER. Batteries could cause choking or chemical burns and can cause problems in the digestive tract. Store hearing aids and batteries in a safe place away from children and pets.
Lithium-ion batteries in consumer electronics have been reported to cause fires and explosions. A thin plastic sheet separates the anode and cathode terminals in these batteries. When this sheet fails, the battery can overheat. However, these batteries are safe when handled properly.
In hearing aid technology, the fact that the batteries are encased in the device reduces the likelihood of short-circuits and increases safety. Hearing aids are FDA-regulated devices and have undergone extensive stress testing by manufacturers prior to release to the public.
Rechargeable hearing aids are safe with some common sense precautions:
- Don’t leave hearing aids in a hot car or near a heat source.
- Be careful not to drop hearing aids. Over time, hard drops can damage the plastic separator in lithium-ion batteries.
- Do not try to open the case of a hearing aid containing a lithium-ion battery.
- Use the correct charger for the batteries. Don’t buy third-party chargers of any kind. Only use parts directly from the hearing aid manufacturer.
- If a pet chews on the hearing aid, have your hearing care professional send it to the manufacturer for service. A puncture in the battery could defeat the safety mechanisms.
Behind-the-Ear Rechargeable Hearing Aids
If a behind-the-ear rechargeable hearing aid is what you want, you’re in luck.
Every major hearing aid manufacturer offers this, with the most advanced features available, such as Bluetooth connectivity and state of the art background noise reduction.
The size of behind-the-ear rechargeable hearing aids has decreased drastically over the last few years.
Today’s rechargeable behind-the-ear devices are hardly distinguishable from their non-rechargeable counterparts, both in aesthetics and also their feel on the ear when worn.
Size of a rechargeable hearing aid compared to its non-rechargeable model
If you want a rechargeable hearing aid but are concerned about the size of the device- don’t be. You will likely not notice any difference whatsoever as compared to the non-rechargeable model.
In-the-Ear Rechargeable Hearing Aids
There are numerous behind-the-ear rechargeable devices available, and very few in-the-ear rechargeable devices.
It’s mostly due to lack of consumer demand, and the size of rechargeable batteries.
In-the-ear hearing aids, on the whole, are much less popular than behind-the-ear hearing aids.
As a result, and due to the fact that reliable rechargeable batteries are relatively new in the hearing aid industry, manufacturers have been focusing exclusively on building rechargeable behind-the-ear devices.
There’s also the issue of rechargeable battery size.
A rechargeable in-the-ear hearing aid that is custom programmed with digital signal processing would likely not be small enough to be cosmetically acceptable for many hearing aid wearers and provide enough power for a full day’s use.
As of now, there is only one in-the-ear rechargeable hearing aid available through a major manufacturer, and that is the Starkey Livio (pictured below).
As shown in the picture above, these hearing aids are certainly not discreet.
The smallest size in which they are available is the ITC in-the-canal style.
This may be (in part) why Starkey has made these hearing aids available (as an option), in the color black, so as to make these hearing aids appear more like a consumer electronic product rather than a hearing aid, in the same way Phonak has done with their Virto Black.
Starkey Livio rechargeable hearing aids need to be placed in a charger (included with purchase) when not in use, and will be fully charged providing a full day’s power in around 3 hours.
Not only is Livio custom and rechargeable, but it also offers Made for iPhone connectivity, allowing wearers to stream audio from their Apple devices to Livio hearing aids.
Aside from Starkey Livio, there is one other reputable option available on the market, made by a company called Eargo.
First released in 2015, Eargo is a relatively new direct-to-consumer hearing aid (a local hearing care professional is not required.)
Designed and modeled after a standard fishing fly, Eargo sits entirely in the ear canal for a discreet fit.
Eargo’s small speaker is surrounded by medical-grade silicone fibers, leaving the ear canal mostly open, which serves to reduce occlusion and leads to a more natural sound quality.
Eargo devices come pre-programmed with four standard profiles, designed for wearers with mild to moderate hearing loss. To change the sound profile, wearers simply double tap their ear with an open hand.
Eargo hearing aids last 16 hours a day, and are charged using the portable charging device supplied by Eargo, which itself holds 7 full charges.
What we like about Eargo
- Design & comfort: One of the most common positive reviews on this device is comfort. The design allows for the hearing aids to almost “float” inside the ear canal, which makes them much more comfortable and hardly noticeable, compared to many custom in-the-ear devices which tightly hug the ear canal and make the wearer’s ears feel full.
- Price: Eargo prices range from $1650-$2150/pair. With the average price of rechargeable hearing aids at $3700 for a pair, Eargo is very competitively priced.
- Company reviews: For a company the size of Eargo, doing the volume they are, there are surprisingly few negative reviews. The vast majority of customers are very happy with both the product and the company.
- Executive leadership: Unlike many hearing aid startups, Eargo has several executives with experience in the hearing aid industry. This ensures Eargo has the breadth of industry-knowledge required to deliver solutions and understands the unique challenges of the hearing aid industry. When so many hearing aid startups quickly fade away, this may help explain Eargo’s staying power thus far.
- Battery life: Eargo hearing aids last 16 hours a day, and their portable charging case stores 7 full charges (which is something some of the major hearing aid manufacturers don’t even offer). 16 hours a day, and a battery life cycle of 1,000 charges is an impressive technical feat for such a tiny device.
What we don’t like about Eargo
- No in-person hearing care: The gold standard in hearing healthcare is professional, in-person care by a licensed hearing provider. This ensures your hearing aids are programmed precisely to your hearing loss, physically fitting correctly, and amplifying the appropriate amount. Lack of in-person care can also be inconvenient in the long-term, leaving wearers no choice but to mail their hearing aids to Eargo when repairs are needed.
- Long term costs: Eargo hearing aids have a life cycle of about 1,000 charges, which calculates to about 3 years. At this point, batteries cannot be replaced. Instead, new Eargo units need to be purchased. Eargo offers 50% off the next set, but this still amounts to considerable costs in the long term, which offsets the initial savings realized by their competitive prices. In fairness, this problem is not unique to Eargo. Another popular in-the-ear device which does not use disposable batteries, Lyric, has wearers purchase an annual subscription which provides new devices when the batteries die.
Rechargeable Hearing Aid Accessories
When you buy rechargeable hearing aids, you may want to consider some accessories.
The accessories available from each manufacturer will slightly vary, but here’s an overview of what is generally available.
If you buy rechargeable hearing aids, you have to have a charger. Most chargers will provide a full charge to the hearing aids within 3-6 hrs. Don’t have that much time? These chargers have a “quick charge” feature, in which 30 minutes of charging will provide around 6 hrs of power. Some chargers can also hold a few full charges, so if you don’t have access to electricity for a few days you can still rely on the stored up power inside the charger. If your charger doesn’t have this feature, you may want to consider a mobile power bank (below).
Mobile power bank
Imagine you’re going camping for a few days and won’t have access to electricity. How will you charge your hearing aids? This is why mobile power banks exist. Some manufacturers build their own power banks, but you can also buy your own lithium-ion power bank (example), like many people use with their smartphones. Then, whenever you don’t have access to electricity, just plug your charger into your power bank and charge your hearing aids as you normally would.
Mini chargers offer the same charging functionality as the larger standard chargers, but in a smaller design. Some people find it convenient to keep a couple of these smaller chargers throughout the house, ensuring there is always a charger nearby.
Cost of Rechargeable Hearing Aids
Over the 1 week course of writing this guide, we verbally surveyed each customer who called us with interest in buying rechargeable hearing aids.
Some of these customers had already received quotes prior to calling us.
If so, we asked for the quote they’d received and also noted the technology level of the model quoted.
Below are the results of this informal and small rechargeable hearing aid pricing survey.
*Per hearing aid, charger included
|Technology Level||Average Price Quoted||Respondents|
Rechargeable hearing aids can certainly be found for less, but none of the prospective customers who contacted us had received quotes for economy or entry-level technology (hence their absence from the table above).
We estimate the lowest quote (including local care) that you’d receive on entry level or economy level rechargeable hearing aids from a major manufacturer to be around $1,000 per device.
Best Rechargeable Hearing Aids of 2020
What are the best rechargeable hearing aids of 2020?
This is a tough question to answer- there are a lot of great rechargeable hearing aids on the market.
What makes this question even harder, is hearing aid wearers have yet to turn out to online review platforms and post rechargeable hearing aid reviews in the numbers that we see with other consumer electronic products. For any reviews that can be found, sample sizes are small.
However, being a nationwide seller affords us the privilege of talking to a wide variety of stakeholders in the hearing aid industry. From hearing aid wearers and prospective buyers, to manufacturers, to hearing professionals, we handle nearly 25,000 calls each year.
This insight has helped our team put our heads together and answer this question, with the following criteria in mind:
1. What rechargeable hearing aids have we found to be the most reliable?
2. What rechargeable hearing aids are the most in-demand with hearing aid wearers and hearing professionals?
Note: We are independently owned hearing aid retailer and have not been compensated by the manufacturers of the products listed below.
Without further adieu, our list of the best rechargeable hearing aids of 2020
#1: Phonak Marvel
Our price: Starting at $1249 each
Release date: August 2018
Why we like it
As one of the first hearing aid manufacturers to embrace lithium-ion batteries, it should be no surprise to see the Phonak Marvel at the top of this list.
In fact, the Phonak Marvel has been such a hit that it also made the #1 spot in our 2020 rankings of Bluetooth hearing aids.
Phonak released their first lithium-ion powered hearing aid in 2016. It’s been over 3 years since that release, and of the thousands of devices we’ve sold, we’ve had only a handful of complaints regarding the battery reliability, all of which were quickly resolved.
Thus far, Phonak rechargeables have stood the test of time.
We love that Phonak offers a mobile power pack which sleekly snaps onto the charger case and provides users with an industry-best 7 days of charging without an external power source.
For a brief overview on Phonak’s charging accessories, check out the video below.
Aside from near universal Bluetooth connectivity and state of the art rechargeability, Marvel hearing aids also benefit from an updated “brain,” as they’re built on Phonak’s newest operating system, AutoSense 3.0.
#2: Signia Styletto
Our price: Starting at $1299 each
Release date: March 2019
Why we like it
Just look at it. The Signia Styletto looks like something you’d find in an Apple store- not a hearing aid center.
Styletto is Signia’s first “SLIM-RIC” hearing aid, which stands for Slim Lithium-Ion Module Receiver-in-Canal.
In layman’s terms, Signia has designed a special pin-shaped lithium-ion battery to allow for a sleeker, slimmer design, shunning the industry’s conventional round batteries.
A rechargeable hearing aid is only as good as its on-the-go charging capabilities- and this is where Syletto shines.
The special Li-ion case is discreet, well-designed (looks just like an Apple Airpods case), and offers three separate portable charges on the go before it needs to be recharged itself.
Styletto hearing aids take 3 hours to fully charge, providing 19 hours of battery life, and a quick 30 minute charge provides an extra 5 hours of use.
We love that Styletto is compatible with iPhone, so wearers can control their hearing aids through Signia’s companian app, and stream phone calls, music, and more.
Aside from in-demand features like rechargeability and Bluetooth connectivity, Styletto hearing aids also offer state of the art sound processing, with features like Signia’s proprietary Own Voice Processing (OVP) for a natural sounding own voice.
We think Styletto is the best looking rechargeable hearing aid around, and one of the coolest hearing aids you can buy, period.
#3: Oticon OPN S
Our price: Starting at $1649 each
Release date: March 2019
Why we like it
It’s hard to put the OPN S in third place on any list.
While it doesn’t have a fashion-forward design like the Signia Styletto, or as broad of Bluetooth connectivity as the Phonak Marvel, OPN S does have perhaps the best overall sound quality of any hearing aid on the market.
In fact, this hearing aid was tied for first place in our Best Hearing Aids of 2020 survey.
OPN S checks all the boxes:
- It’s Made for iPhone, allowing wearers to stream phone calls, music, and more, direct from Apple devices to OPN S hearing aids.
- Thanks to Oticon’s OpenSound Navigator technology, it has perhaps the best background noise reduction in the industry
- It’s powered by reliable lithium-ion batteries, which Oticon says one day will be replaceable at your local hearing care provider’s office (rather than having to mail the hearing aids the manufacturer like you have to do with most other hearing aids).
Conclusion: What’s Next for Rechargeable Hearing Aids?
Just a few short years ago, if you asked a room full of hearing care professionals if they felt rechargeable hearing aids were the future, you’d be lucky to have half of the room raise their hands.
Today, the trend of rechargeable hearing aids and the demand for them is undeniable. Just about half of the thousands of orders we process each year are for rechargeable hearing aids, and we only see that number growing.
It begs the question- what’s next for rechargeable hearing aids?
We can’t say for certain, but we suspect the following:
- Sizes will continue to decrease: When the first lithium-ion rechargeable hearing aids came out, some of them were so large they were borderline unsightly. Units being released today are mere millimeters larger than their disposable battery powered counterparts, and sometimes, like in the case of the Signia Styletto, even smaller than aids that use disposable batteries. We suspect this trend will continue, with manufacturers getting more creative with battery designs that will allow for smaller hearing aids.
- More rechargeable in-the-ear hearing aids: 2020 saw the release of the first hearing aid in this category, and we expect all manufacturers to follow suit in the coming years. It remains to be seen just how cosmetically-acceptable custom rechargeable hearing aids will be for consumers, but it’s a step in the right direction. With companies like Eargo proving that rechargeable in-the-ear hearing aids can work, and that there is demand, we expect this segment to become much more competitive in the coming years.
- New rechargeable technologies will emerge: For a while, it looked like fuel cell technology was on the cusp of making its way to hearing aids. However, that has failed to come to fruition. What the future holds remains to be seen, but we suspect that the next big improvement to rechargeable batteries will be drastically reduced charging times, eliminating what many consider the biggest caveat to rechargeable hearing aids.
A Question for You
For the time being, it seems that encased lithium-ion batteries have emerged as the winner and gold standard of rechargeable batteries.
But…does not being able to fallback and rely on disposable batteries completely turn you off of lithium-ion? Would you like to see more manufacturers embrace silver-zinc, giving you the flexibility of using disposable batteries, or are you “all in” on lithium-ion?
Leave a comment and let us know!