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

Have you used your ear trumpet lately? No? You don’t have one? Because that technology is hundreds of years old. Okay, I suppose that seems logical. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.

The basic shape of the modern hearing aid was developed in the 1950s. And somehow, that’s the hearing aid which has become established in our collective consciousness. 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 get an accurate picture of how much better modern hearing aids are.

The History of Hearing Aids

So that you can better understand just how sophisticated hearing aids have become, it’s helpful to have some perspective about where they started. If we trace 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 really helped you improve your hearing is still up for debate).

The “ear trumpet” was perhaps the first marginally effective hearing assistance apparatus. This device looked like an elongated trumpet. The wide end faced the world and the small end was oriented into your ear. Nowadays, you wouldn’t consider this device high tech, but back then they actually provided some assistance.

Once electricity was introduced, hearing aids went through a major innovation. The hearing aid that we are familiar with was essentially created in the 1950s. They were rather rudimentary, using transistors and large, primitive batteries to effectively work. But these devices represent the beginning of a hearing aid that could be easily worn and hidden. Admittedly, modern hearing aids may share the same shape and function as those early 1950s designs–but their functionality goes far beyond what was possible 70 years ago.

Modern Capabilities of Hearing Aids

Bottom line, modern hearing aids are technological masterpieces. And they’re constantly improving. In a few powerful ways, modern hearing aids have been making use of the digital technology of the later twentieth century. The first, and the most crucial way, is simple: power. Earlier versions had batteries which had less power in a bigger space than their current counterparts.

And a long list of innovative advances come with increased power:

  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss commonly manifests as loss of specific wavelengths and frequencies of sound. Perhaps low frequency noise is hard to hear (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids are a lot more efficient because they will amplify only the frequencies you have a difficult time hearing.
  • Speech recognition: For countless hearing aid owners, the biggest objective of these devices is to enable communication. Many hearing aids, then, have integrated speech recognition software created to isolate and boost voices mainly–from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y meeting hall, this feature comes in handy in many scenarios.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Contemporary hearing aids are now able to connect to all of your Bluetooth devices. This can be amazingly useful on a daily basis. Old style hearing aids, for example, would have irritating feedback when you would attempt to talk on the telephone. With contemporary hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. You will also utilize Bluetooth connectivity to take part in a wide range of other electronic activities. This means quick, feedback free connection to your music, TV, etc.
  • Health monitoring: Advanced Health tracking software is also incorporated into modern hearing aid options. For instance, some hearing aids can recognize when you’ve had a fall. Other features can count your steps or give you exercise encouragement.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids are typically made of high tech materials, so they feel more comfortable. While these new materials allow hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also allows them to be more heavy-duty. And with the addition of long-lasting, rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how not only the inside–but the outside–of hearing aids have advanced over the years.

The old style hearing aids no longer represent 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 a lot better than they used to be.

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