Hearing Aids Aren’t What They Were in The Past – They’re Better

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

Have you used your ear trumpet lately? 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 modern(ish) hearing aid, as it happens, was introduced in the 1950s–the basic design, that is. And that old style hearing aid is generally the one we remember and picture. The problem is that a hearing aid made in the 1950s is just about as out-dated as a hearing trumpet. We need to really advance our thinking if we want to recognize how much better modern hearing aids are.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

To be able to better recognize just how advanced hearing aids have become, it’s useful to have some context about where they started out. As far back as the 1500s, it’s possible to come across some form of hearing aid (though, there’s no confirmation that these wooden, ear-shaped artifacts actually worked).

The first partially successful hearing assistance device was probably the ear trumpet. This device appeared to be a long horn. The wide end faced the world and the small end was oriented into your ear. These, um, devices were not exactly high tech, but they did offer some measurable help.

When electricity was introduced, hearing aids went through a real revolution. The hearing aid that we are familiar with was really developed in the 1950s. In order to do their job, they made use of large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a quite basic design. But these devices represent the start of a hearing aid that could easily be worn and hidden. Admittedly, modern hearing aids may share the same shape and mission as those early 1950s designs–but their functionality goes light years beyond what was conceivable 7 decades ago.

Hearing Aid’s Modern Features

Put simply, modern hearing aids are technological masterpieces. And they keep making improvements. In several profound ways, modern hearing aids have been making use of the digital technology of the later part of the twentieth century. The first, and the most crucial way, is straight forward: power. Earlier versions 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 developments:

  • Health monitoring: Modern hearing aids are also capable of incorporating innovative health tracking software into their options. For instance, some hearing aids can recognize whether you’ve fallen. There are others that can keep you informed about your fitness goals such as how many steps that you have taken.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss commonly manifests as loss of certain wavelengths and frequencies of sound. Perhaps you have a harder time hearing high-frequency noises (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you are unable to hear very well, producing a much more efficient hearing aid.
  • Speech recognition: The ultimate objective, for many hearing aid owners, is to enable communication. Some hearing aids, then, have integrated speech recognition software created to isolate and boost voices primarily–from a packed restaurant to an echo-y board room, this feature is useful in many situations.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids are now able to communicate with other devices via wireless Bluetooth technology. This can be amazingly helpful every day. For example, hearing aids in the past had a tough time dealing with phone calls because users would hear considerable (and sometimes unpleasant) feedback. When you connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth, the transition is smooth and communication is easy. This is true for a wide range of other scenarios regarding electronic devices. Because there’s no interference or feedback, it’s easier to listen to music, watch TV–you name it.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are constructed from high tech materials. These new materials permit hearing aids to be lighter and more robust at the same time. And by adding long-lasting, rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how not only the inside–but also the outside–of hearing aids have advanced over the years.

The older style hearing aids no longer represent what hearing aids are, just 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 substantially better than they used to be.

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