The Dangers of Swallowing a Hearing Aid Battery

Reviewed by Dr. Porter on October 24, 2018

Remember when you were a kid and at some point in your childhood, you happen to swallow something you weren’t supposed to? A button, a LEGO™ piece, or a coin? The doctor would tell our parents to wait until it eventually made its way out, and that we would be “just fine”.

Imagine that small object is a hearing aid battery. The four most common hearing aid batteries are smaller than a U.S. dime, and should always be out of reach of small children and pets.

Symptoms of Hearing Aid Battery Ingestion

  • Immediate choking and vomiting.
  • Bleeding in the back of the throat.
  • Drooling
  • Painful swallowing
  • Pain in the chest or throat.

Once you are aware that a battery has been ingested, call your doctor and go to your local Emergency room.

Damage from Ingesting a Hearing Aid Battery

The electrical capabilities of a common hearing aid battery are not extreme enough to cause it to get physically hot when the battery shorts out. But when a battery is swallowed is not the heat that’s the problem. While any damage may be caused by alkaline material in the battery while it’s leaking out, the main danger comes from the electrical current causing an internal “chemical burn” to body tissues when the battery becomes lodged.

The most dangerous and serious circumstance is when a larger lithium cell battery gets stuck in the esophagus. When the battery is pressing against the esophageal tissue, the residual current in the battery can create very critical reactions in the esophagus. Hydroxide is formed and an alkaline burn develops. This can happen in about 2 hours. Burns to the esophagus can lead to perforations, connections into the trachea, and months to possibly years of impaired feeding, which will be required after many surgeries and procedures.

Hearing Aid Battery Ingestion Prevention Tips

  • Keep batteries out of reach and out of sight, especially of children. Never let your child play with a hearing aid or its battery.
  • Pediatric hearing aids have locks on the instrument where the battery is kept. Be sure these are in the “lock” position when the child wears the hearing aids.
  • When you handle batteries, work over a towel. If you drop the hearing aid battery, it’s easier to find and to retrieve. If you drop it onto a hard surface, the battery is likely to bounce and end up on your floor. A child may find it and eat it.
  • Never put your hearing aids or its batteries on a table where you put food or drinks. If you or a child are distracted and not paying attention, it can easily be picked up, thinking it’s a pill or candy and swallow it.
  • If you store batteries in your purse, keep them separate from any other pills you may carry.
  • Finally, never put a battery in your mouth—for any reason!

Switch to Rechargeable

All major hearing aid manufacturers now offer rechargeable hearing devices. By upgrading to this technology, it eliminates the risk of ingesting a battery.

Contact our office in Gig Harbor, Silverdale or Tacoma, Washington today for more information about hearing aid batteries.

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