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

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

The basic shape of the modern hearing aid was designed in the 1950s. And that old style hearing aid is generally the one we remember and envision. But visualizing a hearing aid like this isn’t realistic because those old hearing aids are out-dated technology. To understand just how much better modern hearing aids are, we have to unleash our imaginations.

The History of Hearing Aids

So that you can better understand just how sophisticated hearing aids have become, it’s useful to have some perspective about where they started. If we trace the history back far enough, you can most likely find some form of hearing assistance device as far back as the 1500s (whether any of them ever actually helped you hear better is probably unlikely).

The “ear trumpet” was most likely the first partially effective hearing assistance approach. This device was shaped like, well, a long trumpet. You would place the narrow end in your ear so that the wide end pointed out. At present, you wouldn’t consider this device high tech, but back then they actually provided some help.

The real innovation came once someone invited electricity to the party. In the 1950s the hearing aid as we know it was developed. In order to do their job, they relied on large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a quite rudimentary design. But these devices represent the start of a hearing aid that could be easily worn and concealed. The hearing aids of the 1950s may have appeared similar to modern hearing aids but the technology and capability is worlds apart.

Modern Features of Hearing Aids

Bottom line, modern hearing aids are technological masterpieces. And they’re always developing. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been making use of digital technologies in a number of profound ways. Power is the first and most important way. Earlier models contained batteries that had less power in a bigger space than their modern counterparts.

And with that increased power comes a large number of sophisticated advances:

  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are constructed from high tech materials. These new materials allow hearing aids to be lighter and more heavy-duty at the same time. It’s easy to see how hearing aids have advanced on the outside as well as the inside by adding long lasting and rechargeable batteries.
  • Health monitoring: Contemporary hearing aids are also able to incorporate innovative health monitoring software into their settings. if you fall, for example, some hearing aids can recognize that. Other features can count your steps or give you exercise support.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Modern hearing aids are now able to communicate with all of your Bluetooth devices. You will use this function every day. As an example, hearing aids used to have a difficult time dealing with phone calls because users would experience significant (and sometimes uncomfortable) feedback. With modern hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. This applies to a wide variety of other scenarios involving electronic devices. This means quick, feedback free connection to your TV, music, etc.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss usually manifests as loss of specific wavelengths and frequencies of sound. Perhaps you have a more difficult time hearing high-frequency noises (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids are far more effective because they will boost only the frequencies you have a difficult time hearing.
  • Speech recognition: For lots of hearing aid users, the ultimate goal of these devices is to assist in communication. Some hearing aids, then, have integrated speech recognition software developed to separate and amplify voices primarily–from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y meeting hall, this feature comes in handy in many situations.

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

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