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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 centuries old. Okay, I suppose that seems logical. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.

The basic shape of the modern hearing aid was designed in the 1950s. And for some reason, that’s the hearing aid which has become identified in our collective consciousness. The problem is that a hearing aid built in the 1950s is just about as out-dated as a hearing trumpet. We need to really expand our thinking if we want to recognize how much more advanced modern hearing aids are.

The History of Hearing Aids

So that you can better comprehend just how sophisticated hearing aids have become, it’s helpful to have some perspective about where they began. If we follow the history back far enough, you can 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 still up for debate).

The “ear trumpet” was most likely the first partially useful hearing assistance apparatus. This device looked like a long horn. The wide end pointed out and the small end was directed into your ear. At present, you wouldn’t think of this device as high tech, but back then they actually provided some help.

The real innovation came when someone invited electricity to the party. The hearing aid that we are familiar with was really developed in the 1950s. They were rather basic, relying on transistors and big, primitive batteries to get the job done. But these devices signify the birth of a hearing aid that could easily be worn and hidden. The hearing aids of the 1950s might have looked comparable to modern hearing aids but the technology and capability is worlds apart.

Modern Features of Hearing Aids

Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it plainly. And they’re always developing. Since the later years of the twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been using digital technologies in some powerful ways. The first, and the most essential way, is simple: power. Modern hearing aids can pack substantially more power into a much smaller area than their earlier forerunners.

And with that greater power comes a long list of innovative developments:

  • Speech recognition: The biggest goal, for most hearing aid owners, is to enhance communication. Separating and amplifying voices, then, is a principal function of the software of many hearing aids–which can be very useful in a wide range of scenarios, from a packed restaurant to an echo-y meeting room.
  • Health monitoring: Advanced Health tracking software is also integrated into modern hearing aid options. For instance, some hearing aids can detect whether you’ve had a fall. There are other functions that can notify you about your fitness goals such as how many steps that you have taken.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss doesn’t manifest across all frequencies and wavelengths uniformly. Perhaps you have a more difficult time hearing high-frequency sounds (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids are far more effective because they are able to boost only the frequencies you have a hard time hearing.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are made of high tech materials. While these new materials permit hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also allows them to be more robust. And by adding long-lasting, rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how not just the inside–but the outside–of hearing aids have advanced over the years.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids are now able to connect to other devices using wireless Bluetooth technology. You will utilize this function on a daily basis. For instance, hearing aids used to have a difficult time with phone calls because users would experience substantial (and sometimes uncomfortable) feedback. With contemporary hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. You will also use Bluetooth connectivity to engage in a wide range of other electronic activities. This means simple, feedback free connection to your music, TV, etc.

Just as rotary phones no longer represent long-distance communication, older hearing aids no longer represent what these devices are. Hearing aids have changed a lot. And that’s a good thing–because now they’re even better.

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