New Starkey hearing aids recharge in their own case, much like Apple’s AirPods

Charging a smartphone is simple: Plug in a cable or place it on a wireless charging pad.

Hearing-aid users often have a tougher time of it. Many still have to swap out little pill-shaped metal batteries that are maddeningly easy to drop and lose in the carpet or couch cushions. It’s a pain.

Now Eden Prairie-based Starkey is offering relief. Earlier this month, the hearing-aid giant announced a new model that recharges much like phones, smartwatches and other consumer devices do.

The Muse iQ Rechargeable hearing aids look nearly identical to other Starkey models, but they ditch the pill batteries for internal lithium-ion batteries that are good for up to 30 hours of use.

The hearing aids are bundled with a charging cradle onto which the audio devices adhere magnetically.

The cradle is compact enough to take on the road, much like the charging cases for Apple’s popular AirPods and other consumer-grade earbuds. And since the cradle itself has an integrated battery, it can charge the hearing aids fully three times without needing to be plugged back into the wall.

Rechargeable hearing aids aren’t new, but are still novel enough to generate excitement among those who have come to hate those pill batteries, said Jason Galster, Starkey’s senior manager of audiology research.

“Everyone struggles with replacing those batteries,” Galster said. “You can imagine an older person with vision impairment and poor manual dexterity dropping and losing them.”

The Muse iQ Rechargeable was until recently impossible to create. Starkey had to work on making the lithium-ion batteries small enough to keep hearing aids at their current sizes, yet maintain enough of a charge for all-day use, Galster said. It helps that hearing aids sip power instead of gulping it like smartphones and tablets do, he noted.

“We had to have the lithium-ion batteries last minimally 12 to 16 hours,” he said. “What we’ve done is design a hearing aid that is the exact same size as our old hearing aids but can last up to 30 hours on one charge.”

Starkey’s Muse IQ Rechargeable hearing aids look like the company’s other hearing aids but have internal batteries similar to those in smartphones along with a case for recharging the devices at home or on the go. (Starkey)

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