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THE EMERGENCE OF SILVER-ZINC

RECHARGEABLE TECHNOLOGY
WITHIN HEARING AIDS
John Ellison, M.S., & Mary MacRae

the development of hearing aid rechargeable
The Coming of Age of the battery requirements. Specifically, these
Rechargeable Hearing Aid Battery development requirements include the following:
In a technological world that demands plug-and-
1. Hearing aids must be able to use conventional
play functionality, the ability to “charge and go”
zinc-air or rechargeable batteries.
has become a non-negotiable feature requirement.
Consumers demand this from modern electronics
2. Patients must be able to replace the
such as cell phones, tablets and MP3 players. For
rechargeable battery without sending
hearing instrument users, rechargeable batteries
the aid in for replacement.
now have the potential to replace the established
practice of disposable battery technology, thus
including hearing instruments within the realm of 3. Rechargeable batteries must operate in a
plug-and-play functionality. hearing aid for at least 15–18 hours a day.

Since the early 1970s, rechargeable hearing aids 4. Rechargeable batteries must provide sufficient
and hearing aid batteries have been available in energy capacity to support advanced hearing
one form or another. Now, some forty years later, aid functions.
we are still holding on to our conventional zinc-air
batteries, as the market for rechargeable hearing 5. Rechargeable batteries must provide a
aids and batteries hasn’t responded to the green alternative to existing technologies.
inconvenient and expensive rechargeable
technology that has been made available up
until now.
Rechargeable Batteries Are the
Green Alternative
MarkeTrak data consistently shows patients are
Compared to conventional battery technology,
either dissatisfied with the battery life of their
rechargeable options reduce waste because
hearing aids or are seeking a device with
consumers don’t need to replace their batteries
rechargeable batteries (Kochkin, 2002; 2012).
nearly as often as they do with conventional
Furthermore, focus groups involving Starkey
batteries. In addition, reducing the amount of
Hearing Technologies research participants
battery packaging helps prevent the growth of
highlight how frequently patients report the desire
waste into our landfills. Another key advantage of
for a rechargeable option. In fact, results from our
rechargeable hearing aid batteries is that they do
focus groups and results obtained through an
not contain mercury by-products, making disposal
independent consulting firm demonstrate that a
clean and safe while promoting recycling efforts.
battery charging function is one of the most highly
Therefore, the use of rechargeable batteries is
rated features among hearing instrument patients
consistent with green technology and a step
and professionals. In addition, feedback from such
toward keeping our planet clean.
aforementioned focus groups provides insight on

The Emergence of Silver-Zinc Rechargeable Technology Within Hearing Aids Reprinted from Innovations: Volume 4, Issue 1, 2014 1

It efficiently determines the replace their rechargeable batteries with charge state of the batteries to provide the conventional batteries (Ellison. AgZn rechargeable batteries Voltage (V) 1.Why green? Being “green” is not only valuable to Another limitation of hearing aid rechargeable the community but also to our primary customer battery technology and a potential reason why Starkey Hearing Technologies’ New SIZE 13 BATTERY NiMH AgZn population. to notify the user when charging is complete. offer several than their younger counterparts (ICOM. Operating Time/Charge (hrs)** 13. allowing for longer Currently. Furthermore. and it activates LED indicators hearing aid features. Issue 1.000 consumer responses on caught on lies in the size of the battery. which no other hearing consumers are more likely to use green products hearing aid processing is getting more Self-Discharge Rate/Month < 20% < 5% aid manufacturer currently uses. the discharge cycle is stable alike. which also eliminates the need for a backup 2) go without amplification. resulting in longer products compared to the average consumer. Our patients agree However. 3. Energy Capacity (mWh) 36 51-60 Starkey Hearing Technologies’ rechargeable household products that showed that older hearing aids are getting smaller. 2 The Emergence of Silver-Zinc Rechargeable Technology Within Hearing Aids Reprinted from Innovations: Volume 4. 2008).8-30 silver-zinc (AgZn) batteries. Rechargeable batteries offer a greener outlet.6 mA average drain aids.8-15 17. NiMH batteries are the only type of 300 interested in an environmentally friendly battery. However. Unpredictable discharge cycles rechargeable batteries into the hearing aid casing. To start. operate with a higher capacity and greater energy Typical Capacity (mAh) 22 28 and were more than twice as likely to use such However.7-30 17. 2014 The Emergence of Silver-Zinc Rechargeable Technology Within Hearing Aids Reprinted from Innovations: Volume 4.6 59 years old were most likely to use green products need to fit more powerful batteries in tinier spaces. only if they operate throughout the entire day silver-zinc rechargeable batteries required battery performance in smaller hearing (Ellison. Starkey Hearing Technologies AgZn charger. The AgZn technology supports advanced appropriate charge. men between the ages of 65 and 69 years old were This constraint is emphasized by the vast majority Self-Discharge Rate/Month < 20% < 5% This allows for the ability to match NiMH the second most likely demographic to use green of Starkey Hearing Technologies research performance in a smaller casing. failure. storage. There is no need to send the hearing aid in energy density for both size 13 and size 312 batteries. damage rechargeable batteries. This requires the patient to use are the following: 0 discharge rate. computer or optional car adaptor. * 1. hearing aid features. products and were nearly twice as likely to use participants preferring rechargeable batteries Table 1: Comparisons across nickel-metal hydride and these have a greater potential for achieving green products than average consumers. The NiMH is rechargeable batteries cannot be swapped with characteristics and ultimately result in poor plotted as one bar because of the close proximity of the conventional batteries in the event of a battery acceptance of the hearing aid by consumers. 2014 3 . This leaves the patient with one of two sum. In 2. battery technology is designed to meet the 150 the consumer and/or not performing as well as restricting the current drain also limits the conventional technologies. NiMH why hasn’t the rechargeable option caught on? This batteries in bulk. NiMH backup devices. NiMH batteries have a low self- replacement. Specifically. In addition.6 32-35 collected more than 6. as well as allowing the professional to buy rechargeable battery used in hearing aids. Therefore. In addition. NiMH rechargeable batteries meet many of to the manufacturer for replacement or repair. Issue 1. which ensures sufficient shelf life.5-30 daily battery life for a fixed volume (Figure 1). 2011). hearing device. which technologies.8 mA average drain ** 1. Furthermore. reducing battery purchase costs. This also allows AgZn batteries to support The User Requirements for The introduction of nickel metal hydride (NiMH) the higher current drain necessary for the increasing number of complex and advanced Using Rechargeable Batteries batteries allowed the development of batteries with the required power and size for consumer use. A marketing communications company rechargeable batteries in hearing aids have not Rechargeable Battery Offering Voltage (V) Typical Capacity (mAh) 1. In fact. 2011).2 1. batteries (Figure 2). and it is solution than conventional disposable small enough to carry in a purse or pocket.2 30 1. Operating Time/Charge (hrs)* 16. which are an inconvenience for the Professionals are able to buy in bulk and store the 13 & 312 AgZn 13 AgZn 312 patient and the hearing healthcare professional 1. of the advanced features common in modern 50 send the devices in to the manufacturer for battery The specifications for our rechargeable batteries hearing aids. which securely locks the batteries in place 95 percent of study participants that we polled technology can operate for the required and automatically determines the polarity of the responded that it was important to be able to 15–18 hours a day. Hearing aids with needs of the hearing aid user and the associated 100 processing power that is required for the function rechargeable batteries often require patients to five development requirements specified above. makes it convenient and travel friendly. sophisticated and complex. this is constrained by the fact that smaller Energy Capacity (mWh) 26 45-47 density than NiMH batteries. improvements are on the horizon. The spare cell charger can plug into a standard wall 5. use of AgZn has Energy Density If a good portion of our target demographic is a lower self-discharge rate. This means we (Table 1). Starkey Hearing Technologies’ solution allows that these options must be overcome for consumers to use a streamlined spare battery rechargeable technology to gain traction. 250 batteries are capable of achieving 15–18 hours of is likely the result of rechargeable hearing wear time and supplying enough power as long as 200 Starkey Hearing Technologies’ rechargeable Wh/I instruments either failing to meet the demands of the hearing aid current drain is limited. less-than-ideal options: 1) use backup devices or the requirements necessary for use in hearing aids. Figure 1: Energy density in watt hours per liter (Wh/l) for can negatively influence the hearing aid response NiMH and AgZn rechargeable batteries. Hearing aid users can substitute conventional batteries. Adult batteries typically have shorter operating times. in devices that seal the batteries in the event that they lose or and predictable. females between the ages of 55 and demand for battery power supply. 4. which increases the important improvements over NiMH batteries SIZE 312 BATTERY NiMH AgZn Specifically.

S Series iQ BTE 312. Hearing Review. Xino Tinnitus and Xino Classic Figure 2: Starkey Hearing Technologies’ new spare cell charger. Inductive recharge field trial.. Starkey S Series RIC 312 Hearing Technologies hearing aid wearers have it all with the greener AgZn battery option. Half Shell and CIC 312 only (non-wireless) rechargeable option that not only minimizes the limitation of earlier rechargeable options but also S Series BTE 312. 9(11). Half Shell and CIC 312 only (non-wireless) improved shelf life. See Table 2 for a complete list of supported Starkey Hearing ICOM (2008). As with any older demographics as biggest users of green products. Devices currently in the field can also Ellison. X Series and Ignite BTE 312. 18–22. 3 Series Power Plus BTE 13.thefreelibrary. use rechargeable batteries with a simple update Starkey Hearing Technologies. 3 Series and Tour RIC 312 (non-wireless) through the Inspire® fitting software. Kochkin. Xino RIC 10. 4/14 WTPR2620-00-EE-SG 4 The Emergence of Silver-Zinc Rechargeable Technology Within Hearing Aids Reprinted from Innovations: Volume 4.com . Hearing Review. (2012).. MarkeTrak VI: Consumers rate improvements X Series and Ignite RIC 312.-a0184380767. 19(3). emerging technology. MN 55344 © 2014 Starkey Hearing Technologies. BTE 13 technology is refined. Half Shell and CIC 312 only (non-wireless) The Greenest Generation: ICOM Survey Reveals Older for many consumers but expect continued improvements and broader applications as the Demographics as. The greenest generation: ICOM survey reveals 3 Series and Tour BTE 312 (non-wireless) Technologies hearing instruments. MarkeTrak VIII: The key influencing factors in hearing aid purchase intent. (2011). wireless hearing aids in streaming modes and are X Series and Ignite ITE. Technical Paper. RIC 13 capability of the AgZn is not sufficient to support sought in hearing instruments. S. Global Headquarters 6700 Washington Ave S Eden Prairie. Finally. BTE 13 Conclusion S Series iQ RIC 312 Starkey Hearing Technologies has introduced a S Series iQ ITE. including S Series ITE. All Rights Reserved. 12–25. we see immediate benefits The Free Library. the flexibility to use either conventional or rechargeable batteries. (2002). LEDs notify the user of the charge state.Many of Starkey Hearing Technologies’ non-wireless devices support the use of AgZn rechargeable References Product Family and Device Style (non-wireless ONLY) batteries. ITC. 2014 StarkeyPro. The charger can be powered via a standard wall outlet or USB computer connection. increased energy in a smaller casing. and Table 2: Starkey devices that support silver-zinc rechargeable batteries. J. S. ITC. Exclusions: X Series Power Plus BTE 13. travel-friendly charger. BTE 13 raises the bar by allowing users to recharge with a small. Half Shell and CIC 312 only (non-wireless) not recommended for use in those products. ITC. Currently. Issue 1. the peak power Kochkin. Retrieved from http://www.C. ITC.com/ 3 Series ITE.