Australian Government - Department of Health and Aged Care - Office of Hearing Services
Hearing Services Program

Safety Information on button batteries

Lithium button batteries are found in a large range of children’s toys and other household objects. Most hearing devices supplied under the Australian Government Hearing Services Program (the program) use zinc air button batteries. In 2012, Energizer, Kidsafe, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched a joint safety campaign, The Battery Controlled, warning parents about the dangers of small coin-sized lithium button batteries. The campaign has identified that approximately 8% of injuries to children under the age of four were caused by button batteries used in hearing aids.

Risks and injuries

It is estimated that each week approximately four Australian children (under the age of five) present to an emergency department with an injury related to ingesting or inserting button batteries. When swallowed, button batteries can become lodged in the throat causing severe burns to the oesophagus and internal organs such as the lungs, heart, arteries and spine. This damage occurs within hours and can result in serious injury or death. Symptoms that may occur after swallowing a button battery include

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain and/or
  • Fever

If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery, go straight to a hospital emergency department or call the Poisons Information Centre for additional information on 13 11 26. Do not let the child eat or drink until medical professionals can determine if a battery is present.

Preventative tips     

In order to prevent serious injury caused by ingesting or inserting hearing aid batteries the following steps should be taken

  • Children under the age of five should be fitted with hearing aids that have a tamper proof battery compartment.
  • Children who wear hearing aids should be monitored when using their devices.
  • Keep batteries out of sight and out of reach of small children.
  • Keep hearing aids out of sight and out of reach of small children when not being used.
  • Dispose of used button batteries immediately as they can still be dangerous. Your hearing service provider may be able to recycle used hearing aid batteries.
  • Inform others about the risks associated with button batteries.

More information

The ACCC is currently investigating the safety of button batteries and products that contain them. As part of this investigation the ACCC is seeking information from stakeholders to understand whether regulation under the Australian Consumer Law is necessary to address safety risks associated with button batteries. The Button Battery Safety Issues Paper is now available and interested parties are invited to provide their feedback. Please note, submissions for this consultation will close on 30 September 2019.

For more information please visit the ACCC’s Product Safety Australia and The Battery Controlled webpages.

Please report any incidents or injuries associated with button batteries to the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

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