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 seems logical. Ear trumpets are a bit… archaic.

The fundamental shape of the modern hearing aid was developed in the 1950s. And that old style hearing aid is generally the one we remember and think of. The problem is that a hearing aid made in the 1950s is just about as antiquated as an ear trumpet. To comprehend just how much better modern hearing aids are, we have to unshackle our imaginations.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

In order to better understand just how sophisticated hearing aids have become, it’s useful to have some perspective about where they began. As far back as the 1500s, it’s possible to find some type of hearing aid (whether any of them ever actually helped you improve your hearing is probably unlikely).

The “ear trumpet” was probably the first somewhat effective hearing assistance apparatus. This device looked like an elongated trumpet. The wide end pointed out and the narrow end was oriented inside your ear. These, er, devices weren’t really high tech, but they did offer some measurable help.

When electricity was introduced, hearing aids had a major revolution. In the 1950s the hearing aid that we are all familiar with was created. They were quite rudimentary, relying on transistors and large, antiquated batteries to get the job done. But these devices represent the beginning of a hearing aid that could easily be worn and concealed. The hearing aids of the 1950s might have appeared comparable to modern hearing aids but the technology and functionality is worlds apart.

Modern Features of Hearing Aids

Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it plainly. And they keep making improvements. Since the later years of the twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been utilizing digital technologies in several powerful ways. The first, and the most crucial way, is straight forward: power. Modern hearing aids can pack substantially more power into a much smaller space than their earlier predecessors.

And with that increased power comes a long list of innovative advances:

  • Speech recognition: The ultimate goal, for many hearing aid owners, is to assist in communication. Many hearing aids, then, have integrated speech recognition software designed to isolate and amplify voices mainly–from a busy restaurant to an echo-y meeting hall, this feature is useful in many situations.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids are now able to connect to other devices using wireless Bluetooth technology. This can be extremely useful every day. For instance, hearing aids in the past had a difficult time dealing with telephone calls because users would experience significant (and sometimes uncomfortable) feedback. When you connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth, the transition is smooth and communication is easy. You will also use Bluetooth connectivity to take part in a variety of other electronic activities. Because there isn’t any feedback or interference, it’s easier to watch TV, listen to music–you name it.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss does not manifest across all wavelengths and frequencies equally. Maybe low frequency noise is hard to hear (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids are far more effective because they are able to boost only the frequencies you have a difficult time hearing.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are constructed from advanced materials. While these new materials allow hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also enables them to be more robust. It’s easy to see how hearing aids have advanced on the outside as well as the inside with the addition of long lasting and rechargeable batteries.
  • Health monitoring: Contemporary hearing aids are also able to incorporate innovative health tracking software into their settings. For instance, some hearing aids can detect when you’ve fallen. There are other features that can keep you informed about your fitness goals such as how many steps that you’ve taken.

Just like rotary phones no longer exemplify long-distance communication, the hearing aids of old no longer capture what these devices are. Hearing aids aren’t what they once were. And we should be excited because they’re substantially better than they were.

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