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 centuries old. Okay, I suppose that makes sense. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.

The modern(ish) hearing aid, it turns out, was engineered in the 1950s–the basic design, that is. And that old style hearing aid is generally the one we remember and picture. But thinking of a hearing aid in this way isn’t accurate 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.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

To be able to better recognize just how sophisticated hearing aids have become, it’s helpful to have some perspective about where they started out. If we trace the history back far enough, you can probably find some type of hearing assistance device as far back as the 1500s (whether any of them ever actually helped you improve your hearing is probably unlikely).

The first somewhat effective hearing assistance device was most likely the ear trumpet. This device was shaped like, well, a long trumpet. The wide end faced the world and the narrow end was put inside your ear. These, um, devices weren’t exactly high tech, but they did provide some measurable assistance.

Once electricity was introduced, hearing aids experienced a real innovation. The hearing aid as we now know it was essentially created in the 1950s. They were rather rudimentary, using transistors and large, primitive batteries to effectively work. But a hearing aid that could be easily worn and hidden started with these devices. The hearing aids of the 1950s may have looked similar to modern hearing aids but the technology and capability is worlds apart.

Hearing Aid’s Modern Capabilities

Put simply, modern hearing aids are technological masterpieces. And they keep making improvements. Since the later years of the twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been benefiting from digital technologies in several powerful ways. The first, and the most crucial way, is straight forward: power. Modern hearing aids can store substantially more power into a much smaller area than their earlier predecessors.

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

  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss does not manifest across all frequencies and wavelengths uniformly. Maybe you have a more difficult time hearing high-frequency noises (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids are much more efficient because they can boost only the frequencies you have a difficult time hearing.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids are usually constructed out of high tech materials, so they feel more comfortable. While these new materials enable hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also enables them to be more heavy-duty. It’s easy to see how hearing aids have improved on the outside as well as the inside by adding long lasting and rechargeable batteries.
  • Health monitoring: Advanced Health monitoring software is also integrated into modern hearing aid options. For instance, some hearing aids can recognize when you’ve fallen. There are others that can keep you informed about your fitness goals such as how many steps that you’ve taken.
  • Speech recognition: The ultimate objective, for most hearing aid owners, is to facilitate communication. Isolating and amplifying voices, then, is a primary feature of the software of many hearing aids–from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y meeting hall, this feature is useful in many scenarios.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids can now connect to other devices using wireless Bluetooth technology. You will utilize this feature every day. Old style hearing aids, for example, would have irritating feedback when you would attempt to talk on the telephone. When you connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth, the transition is smooth and communication is effortless. You will also use Bluetooth connectivity to participate in a wide variety of other electronic activities. This means quick, feedback free connection to your TV, music, etc.

Just as rotary phones no longer exemplify long-distance communication, the hearing aids of old 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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