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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 engineered during the 1950s–the basic shape, that is. And that old style hearing aid tends to be the one we generally remember and picture. The problem is that a hearing aid developed in the 1950s is just about as out-dated as an ear trumpet. We need to really advance our thinking if we want to understand how much better modern hearing aids are.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

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

The first somewhat helpful hearing assistance device was probably the ear trumpet. This device looked like an elongated trumpet. The wide end pointed out and the narrow end was directed inside your ear. These, um, devices weren’t exactly high tech, but they did provide some measurable help.

The real innovation came when electricity was invited to the party. The hearing aid that we are familiar with was really developed in the 1950s. In order to work properly, they used large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a quite basic design. But these devices signify the birth of a hearing aid that could easily be worn and hidden. The hearing aids of the 1950s may have looked similar to modern hearing aids but the technology and capability is worlds apart.

Modern Capabilities of Hearing Aids

Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it bluntly. And they keep getting better. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been using digital technologies in some profound ways. The first, and the most crucial way, is straight forward: power. Modern hearing aids can store significantly more power into a much smaller space than their earlier predecessors.

And a long list of cutting-edge developments come with greater power:

  • Health monitoring: Sophisticated Health tracking software is also incorporated into modern hearing aid options. if you fall, for instance, some hearing aids can detect that. Other features can count your steps or give you exercise motivation.
  • Speech recognition: For many hearing aid owners, the biggest goal of these devices is to enable communication. Many hearing aids, then, have integrated speech recognition software created to separate and amplify voices mainly–which can be very handy in a wide range of scenarios, from a packed restaurant to an echo-y board room.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Contemporary hearing aids can now communicate with all of your Bluetooth devices. This can be incredibly helpful every day. As an example, hearing aids used to have a hard time with telephone calls because users would hear considerable (and sometimes unpleasant) feedback. With modern hearing aids, you can simply connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. This applies to a wide variety of other situations involving electronic devices. Because there isn’t any feedback or interference, it’s easier to watch TV, listen to music–you name it.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss doesn’t manifest through all frequencies and wavelengths uniformly. Maybe low frequency noise gets lost (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids can be programmed to amplify only those sounds that you can’t hear so well, resulting in a much more efficient hearing aid.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids are usually constructed out of high tech materials, so they feel more comfortable. While these new materials permit hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also enables them to be more heavy-duty. 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.

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

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