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Woman wearing hearing aids climbing hill with family and laughing at a joke.

When was the last time you used that old ear trumpet? No? You don’t use one? Because that technology is hundreds of years old. Okay, I suppose that makes sense. Ear trumpets are a bit… archaic.

The modern(ish) hearing aid, it turns out, was introduced in the 1950s–the basic shape, that is. And that old model hearing aid is generally the one we remember and picture. But thinking of a hearing aid in this way isn’t realistic because those old hearing aids are antiquated technology. We need to really advance our thinking if we want to recognize how much more advanced modern hearing aids are.

The History of Hearing Aids

It’s helpful to have some context concerning where hearing aids started in order to better understand how advanced they have become. As far back as the 1500s, it’s possible to come across some form of hearing aid (whether any of them ever really helped you hear better is probably unlikely).

The “ear trumpet” was perhaps the first partially useful hearing assistance mechanism. This device appeared to be a long horn. You would place the narrow end inside your ear so that the wide end pointed out. These, er, devices weren’t exactly high tech, but they did provide some measurable assistance.

Once electricity was introduced, hearing aids had a real innovation. In the 1950s the hearing aid that we are all familiar with was developed. In order to do their job, they used large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a fairly basic design. But a hearing aid that could be easily worn and hidden began with these devices. The hearing aids of the 1950s might have looked similar to modern hearing aids but the technology and capability is worlds apart.

Hearing Aid’s Modern Features

Bottom line, modern hearing aids are technological wonders. And they’re constantly developing. In several significant ways, modern hearing aids have been making use of the digital technology of the later twentieth century. The first, and the most important way, is straight forward: power. Modern hearing aids can pack significantly more power into a much smaller space than their earlier forerunners.

And a number of cutting-edge advances come with greater power:

  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are constructed from advanced materials. While these new materials enable hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also allows them to be more heavy-duty. And by adding long-lasting, rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how not just the inside–but also the outside–of hearing aids have improved over the years.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss doesn’t occur across all wavelengths and frequencies uniformly. Perhaps you have a more difficult time hearing high-frequency noises (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you can’t hear so well, producing a much more efficient hearing aid.
  • Health monitoring: Sophisticated Health tracking software is also included in modern hearing aid options. if you have a fall, for instance, some hearing aids can recognize that. There are other functions that can notify you about your fitness goals such as how many steps that you have taken.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids can now communicate with other devices via wireless Bluetooth technology. You will utilize this function every day. For instance, hearing aids in the past had a difficult time dealing with telephone calls because users would experience significant (and sometimes unpleasant) feedback. When you connect to your phone via Bluetooth, the transition is simple and communication is effortless. You will also use Bluetooth functions to participate in a wide range of other electronic activities. Because there’s no interference or feedback, it’s easier to listen to music, watch TV–you name it.
  • Speech recognition: For lots of hearing aid owners, the ultimate goal of these devices is to assist in communication. Some hearing aids, then, have built-in speech recognition software designed to isolate and boost voices primarily–which can be pretty helpful in a wide range of scenarios, from a packed restaurant to an echo-y board room.

The old style hearing aids no longer exemplify what hearing aids are, in the same way as rotary phones no longer illustrate what long distance communication looks like. Hearing aids have changed a lot. And we should be excited because they’re substantially better than they used to be.

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