Learned Something New about Hearing Aids and Altitude

6:08 p.m. on July 19, 2017 (EDT)
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Last year I was doing a section hike on the JMT and was camped at Island Pass which is a little over 10,000 ft and had both of my hearing aids stop working. I changed batteries, but the hearing aids still failed to work and I thought I must have done something and somehow managed to damaged a pair of very expensive hearing aids during my hike. When I got to Reds Meadow and had internet service, I learned that the zinc-air batteries used in hearing aids can be impacted by the lack of oxygen when you are at higher elevations. Once I returned to a lower altitude both hearing aids started working again, but if your like me and wear hearing aids, don't be too surprised if you go on a high country backpacking trip like the JMT and find your hearing aids stop working part of the time while you are at altitude.

Here is a good article on things that can impact hearing aid batteries: http://www.audiologyonline.com/articles/rayovac-hearing-aid-batteries-important-12293

6:49 a.m. on July 20, 2017 (EDT)
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Fascinating Mike, thanks for sharing that. My wife has hearing aides and takes great care to keep them safe in the outdoors. If there is even a hint of rain she takes them out. They are shockingly expensive. 

6:38 p.m. on July 21, 2017 (EDT)
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Wow, very timely post, thanks Mike. I wear one in one ear, usually not while backpacking but when out with other people it's really hard for me to hear them while on the trail so this past week I brought it and, as you described, it didn't work. I cursed the batteries but will have to check if it works now that I'm back to sea level. Never would have occurred to me to think that altitude could be a factor.

10:59 p.m. on July 21, 2017 (EDT)
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Wow, that is so cool,.............well other than you lost your hearing at high altitude and then thought you'd busted/ruined a pair of expensive hearing aids.  Who would have ever thought.  I know guys that would have just thrown out the hearing aids only to find out that it was just the workings of the batteries in relation to the altitude and the O2.  What an interesting post.  Did not having your hearing aids affect/impact your high altitude trip, other than being annoying?


1:49 p.m. on July 22, 2017 (EDT)
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Hi Apeman, no my hearing aids really don't have any other impact when I am at altitude.  I sometimes toy with leaving them in the car so I won't risk losing them, but then everything sounds very "flat" like what you would hear on the radio if you turned the tone all the way to bass. So in order to hear the birds chirp and be able to carry on a conversation with other people I meet, I take the risk and wear them on almost all of my trips.

December 6, 2019
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