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How to Recycle Hearing Aid Batteries

written by: Kantha Wijeratne•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 1/13/2012

Hearing aid batteries should not be disposed of with normal garbage. They contain metals that can harm our environment. Learn how to recycle hearing aid batteries to ensure that resources are conserved and environmental risks are minimized.

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    Button Cell and Zinc Air Hearing Aid Batteries

    Do you know that hearing aid batteries can be recycled? Most of us dispose of used batteries by placing them in the trash. The ones used commonly in hearing aids are zinc air batteries. They work with the zinc interacting with outside air. In addition to zinc, they may also contain small amounts of mercuric oxide.

    Hearing aid batteries are classified as button cell batteries. They belong to the small round type found in watches, greeting cards and pagers. If they end up in land fills, the metals in the batteries can leach in to the soil or ground water. If incinerated, the battery can explode and release toxic materials either in to the air or concentrated in the ash that is left after burning. A safer alternative is to recycle hearing aid batteries.

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    The Recycling Process

    The recycling process involves extracting the zinc and other toxic metals contained in it. The extracted metals are sold for re-use by industry. The remaining harmless material is sent to land fills. Recycling facilities have been set up in many countries to extract metals not only from hearing aid batteries but also from various other types of batteries that are used in cell phones, toys and other appliances. Used batteries that are dropped off at State and County collection centers are sent to such facilities for processing.

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    How Can You Help?

    How can we help? An important first step is to check for disposal instructions in the battery package.

    Hearing aid retailers, large volume stores such as Radio Shack, Pay Less and K-Mart as well as hearing aid clinics usually accept used batteries for safe disposal. Check with your County office whether there is a local collection program or hazardous waste management program where used batteries are collected or can be dropped off. In California, all batteries are classified as universal waste and require safe disposal. To check on line for a house hold hazardous waste collection centre in your area, click here.

    Proper maintenance and care of hearing aid or cell batteries can also help to prolong their life time. To avoid build up of moisture, keep the battery door in the hearing aid open at night. To prevent the zinc from reacting with outside air, remove tabs from new batteries only when ready for use. Allow a minute or two for the battery to ramp up before placing inside the hearing aid. Store spare batteries in a dry place away from metal objects. To prevent mix-ups, never keep used and new batteries together. Your hearing aid itself should be kept clean and free of moisture. Avoid exposing it to direct sunlight.

    Rechargeable batteries, including solar powered ones are also available for hearing aids. Ask your health care provider whether this is an option for the model you use. If so, this is a way to cut down on expenses as well as help save scarce resources.

    Hearing aid batteries make up a smaller share of the millions of used batteries that end up in land fills causing harm to our environment. Remember this the next time you have to dispose of your used batteries and consider contributing to a recycling program.