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Hearing aid battery safety

Contributed by , staff writer for Healthy Hearing

If you’re a hearing aid user, chances are you have a stash of replacement batteries somewhere in your house. These small, button-shaped cell batteries keep your hearing aids working at their optimum performance, but did you know they can cause serious injury or death if they’re not handled properly?

Batteries contain mercury, silver, lithium and other heavy metals as their main component. When these chemicals are ingested and come in contact with body fluids, they create an electrical current which can burn through tissue and seriously damage internal organs in as little as two hours’ time. When you handle a leaking battery, it can cause serious burns immediately.

This is true no matter if the batteries are fully charged or no longer power your hearing aids.

Storing your batteries

Now that you know, you can see why it’s important to keep your hearing aid batteries safe from little hands or inquisitive pets. If you have small children or animals in your house, it’s important to find a safe place to store your batteries. Here are some dos and don’ts:

hearing aid batteries
Due to the small size of hearing aid (or
button) batteries, they should be kept 
in a storage spot out of reach of small
hands and pets. 
  • DO invest in a container with a snap-tight lid. Store it on a shelf (the higher the better – as long as you can reach it safely) in a closet which has a door you keep shut
  • DO store your batteries at room temperature. Heat shortens battery life and, contrary to popular opinion, battery life is not extended by storing them in the refrigeration
  • DON’T store batteries next to metal objects, such as coins and keys. These are common items found in pant’s pockets and purses
  • DON’T store your batteries with your medications. Many pills are the same size and shape as hearing aid batteries. Many cases of accidental battery poisoning have occurred from individuals who mistakenly ingested a hearing aid battery while taking their daily medications

How to properly discard your batteries

When you change your hearing aid batteries, be sure to place them in a child- and pet-proof container immediately until you can take them to a recycling center. Do not leave them on a counter or throw them in the trash can.

Because of the valuable metals these batteries contain, they’re extremely recyclable. Those same contents make them extremely hazardous if you simply throw them in the trash. Over time, the batteries can leak these hazardous chemicals and contaminate the environment. Recycling centers extract the dangerous chemicals and discard the remaining contents, which are safe for landfills.

In this day and age, it’s likely there are more than a few battery recycling collection centers in your community. If you aren’t already aware of their location, check with your hearing center. If they don’t recycle batteries, most Radio Shack and Miracle Aid centers accept used batteries or you can search Earth911.com to locate the nearest recycling center. 

How to handle injuries from batteries

According to the National Capital Poison Control Center, more than 3,500 Americans of all ages swallow button batteries every year. If this happens to a person or pet in your home, seek medical attention immediately.

  • Do not give them anything to eat or drink and do not induce vomiting.
  • Call the National Capital Poison Center in Washington D.C., which operates a hotline for battery ingestion cases. They can help you decide, based on the age of the patient and the size of the battery, if it’s necessary to have an x-ray immediately.
  • Have the battery identification number available, if possible. It can be found on the package or a matching battery.
  • Watch for fever, abdominal pain, vomiting or blood in the stool. If these symptoms occur, call your family physician or veterinarian immediately.
  • Check the stool until the battery has passed.
  • Young children and the elderly sometimes put batteries in their nose or ears. Symptoms of this behavior include pain and/or a discharge from the ears or nose. If you suspect a battery is involved, have them examined by a medical professional immediately. Please note: do not administer ear and nose drops as this can cause additional injury.

Sometimes, batteries can leak acid which can burns your skin. If you receive an acid burn when handling your hearing aid batteries:

  • Use a wet cloth to wipe any area on the hands, face or feet,
  • Remove any clothing or jewelry which may have come in contact with the battery acid so it doesn’t burn any other areas,
  • Run cool water over the affected area for 15 minutes,
  • Wrap the affected area with a clean piece of gauze or cotton towel and call your doctor if your skin continues to discolor.

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