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Pets & Hearing Aids Don't Mix!

“Do you have any pets in your household?” It’s a question I ask at every hearing aid evaluation. Almost every time I get a blank stare and confused look. I imagine that patients are looking at me sideways trying to figure out why I’m asking what seems like such a random question—they seem to be thinking, “Does she think my pets need hearing aids too? Do they? What?”

The truth is I’m asking because hearing aids and their batteries (either new or used as well as rechargeable batteries) can pose serious health risks to pets if swallowed. Hearing aids, although very powerful and technologically advanced, are very tiny and the batteries even tinier. This increases the chances of being dropped, played with, lost and/or chewed and swallowed. There’s been cases of pets snatching their owner’s hearing aids right out of an open case or out of their purse or nightstand. I’ve even had a patient whose parrot took their hearing aid out of their ear and munched it. Truth is, we don’t know why hearing aids are so appealing to cats and dogs (and parrots). Some think it’s due to the scent of their owner on the instrument, some think it’s the high-pitched feedback the instrument can produce. Either way, it can be very dangerous if a hearing aid is chewed or swallowed.

If a hearing aid is chewed, it’s usually very apparent, and you should look for the evidence! If this occurs, immediately look through the components to see if the battery is still intact. In some cases, the item(s) can pass through your pet’s system on its own. In rare cases, batteries can become lodged in the throat or esophagus, posing a choking hazard. Being that batteries are made of various metals and chemical compounds, they can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening injuries. Lithium batteries, which have toxic properties to begin with, when introduced to saliva can trigger an electric current in the battery, resulting in severe burns. Zinc air batteries are less hazardous but still pose a threat, as they contain trace amounts of mercury which can be released during the digestive process. 

If you think your cat or dog ingested a battery, the Pet Poison Hotline advises flushing the mouth with lukewarm water for 15 to 20 minutes. Call an emergency veterinarian immediately but don't induce vomiting. If the battery was punctured, the corrosive liquid inside will damage the esophagus on its way out. Follow the advice of your veterinarian. If your pet swallowed the battery, they might exhibit the following symptoms:

• lack of appetite or bowel movement
• pawing at the mouth
• oral or abdominal pain
• drooling
• vomiting
• trouble swallowing
• fever
• red and raw or white and gray tongue.

The best way to keep your hearing aids and pets safe is to keep your hearing aids away from them. When your hearing aids aren’t safely in your ears they should be inside a closed charger or in a sturdy case that’s put safely out of reach.

Dr. Linda Kissane is an audiologist at Conejo Hearing Center, located at 5655 Lindero Canyon Road, Suite 506, in Westlake Village. Contact them at 818.214.8397 or learn more at