Over the years, I have observed many strange occurrences with patients and their hearing aids. Three people in the past have admitted chomping down on their own hearing aids; until last week. Last week I received my fourth report on this issue. It usually involves eating peanuts on the coffee table. However, one person told me that somehow it ended up her salad which she had carefully prepared on her kitchen island. She was quite surprised when she chopped down on it at the dinner table.
Accidents happen. I always ask myself why the hearing aid was not in their ear! The small custom hearing aids that fit into the ear canal are quite small and when they are sitting on a coffee table next to a pile of peanuts, an accident is just waiting to happen. I am sure this has happened to more than just the four people who have actually admitted to it. When I was a grad student at Purdue I was never informed of this potential problem.
Battery ingestion can be a very serious issue. There have at least two instances that I have been informed about that involved a death from swallowing a hearing aid battery. The small button batteries usually pass through the body, but sometimes they can be lodged somewhere and then cause serious damage. Most hearing aids for children now have battery doors that can be locked so the child cannot open the door and then swallow the battery. If a hearing aids battery is dropped on the floor, everyone should help look for it before a toddler finds it.
If anyone ingests a battery, this is what you should do:
- Immediately call the 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333 (call collect if necessary), or call your poison center at 1-800-222-1222.
- If readily available, provide the battery identification number, found on the package or from a matching battery.
- In most cases, an x-ray must be obtained right away to be sure that the battery has gone through the esophagus into the stomach. (If the battery remains in the esophagus, it must be removed immediately. Most batteries move on to the stomach and can be allowed to pass by themselves.) Based on the age of the patient and size of the battery, the National Battery Ingestion Hotline specialists can help you determine if an immediate x-ray is required.
- Don’t induce vomiting. Don’t eat or drink until the x-ray shows the battery is beyond the esophagus.
- Watch for fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, or blood in the stools. Report these symptoms immediately.
- Check the stools until the battery has passed.
- Your physician or the emergency room may call the National Button Battery Ingestion Hotline/National Capital Poison Center collect at 202-625-3333 for consultation about button batteries. Expert advice is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.