The disposal of hearing aid batteries depends on the type of battery and if it contains mercury. Mercury-free battery options can be disposed of in household waste — to determine if your hearing aid batteries are mercury-free, refer to the packaging. If the battery package does not specify the battery is mercury-free, assume it is not safe to toss. These batteries should be recycled responsibility at a recycling center that accepts mercury-containing batteries.
One example of a brand that uses mercury in some of their products is PowerOne. PowerOne sells both mercury-free and mercury-containing batteries. Although they are a German company, they do sell their batteries to US vendors (typically audiology offices). Should you need a mercury-containing battery, ask your audiologist to obtain it for you.
Since some hearing aids do not operate well on mercury-free batteries, it is common for audiologists to carry both mercury-free and mercury-containing batteries. Hearing aids can also be sensitive to varying voltage readings. A perfectly good mercury-free battery may be read by the hearing aid as having a low voltage and cause the hearing aid to emit false “low battery” warnings or the hearing aid may shut itself down when battery levels briefly drop. This stems from mercury-free batteries having overall less stable voltage patterns. Battery manufacturers are improving their batteries every year to deal with these issues and hearing aid manufacturers are also changing how hearing aids monitor battery levels. However, there are many hearing aid users who find, at least for now, that mercury-containing batteries are a necessity.
Hearing aids that are more likely to need mercury-containing batteries include high-power hearing aids, hearing aids that take size 10 batteries, and older digital models.
Pro tips for getting longer battery life:
- Don’t snuff out your batteries! Allow batteries to air out when you peel the sticky tab. This means that you should wait for one to two minutes after peeling the sticker before placing batteries inside the hearing aids. Hearing aids are relatively airtight and fresh batteries need more oxygen in the first minute to fully activate.
- Don’t store batteries in the refrigerator, or in humid areas of your home, such as your kitchen or bathroom!
- Keep your hearing aids dry (including the batteries). If you have been sweating, take your battery out and wipe if off with a tissue. Built-up moisture in the battery compartment can lead to rusting of the battery. Over time, this can damage the hearing aids too!
Ask your audiologist where to drop off your batteries.
Dr. Yoder, Audiologist and Owner of HearWell Center