Explanation of identified safety issue:
Babies and young children (under five years) can suffer serious injury if they ingest coin/button batteries or poke them into their nostrils or ears. This group is at most risk of serious harm because they tend to explore the world by putting things in their mouths and batteries can become lodged in their narrow oesophagus and cause rapid tissue necrosis, perforation, and haemorrhage.
While the larger lithium batteries have the greatest potential to cause harm, including death, the smaller zinc–air batteries, used in hearing aids, cochlear implants, bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHA) and similar equipment, still present a significant risk.
An alert issued in 2014 brought attention to the risk to children from ingestion of any coin/button battery and the need to treat this as a medical emergency.
We received a report of a one-year old child who swallowed the button battery from their hearing aid, which did not have a secure battery compartment. Investigation of current guidance identified that although standards for manufacturers of hearing aids exist, national and local policies are inconsistent about when hearing aids with secure battery compartments should be supplied; this can put children at risk.