Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, 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:
- 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.
Swallowed a battery?
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.
More on the dangers of swallowing button batteries.
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.