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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 use one? Because that technology is hundreds of years old. Okay, I suppose that seems logical. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.

The fundamental shape of the modern hearing aid was designed in the 1950s. And that old style hearing aid is generally the one we remember and envision. 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 expand our thinking if we want to recognize how much better modern hearing aids are.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

It’s worthwhile to have some perspective concerning where hearing aids started so that you can better perceive how advanced they have become. As far back as the 1500s, you can come across some type of hearing aid (whether any of them ever actually helped you improve your hearing is still up for debate).

The “ear trumpet” was probably the first marginally effective hearing assistance mechanism. This construct was shaped like, well, a long trumpet. You would place the small end inside your ear so that the wide end faced out. Today, you wouldn’t think of this device as high tech, but back then they actually give some 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 perform their function, they used large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a fairly basic design. But these gadgets represent the beginning of a hearing aid that could easily be worn and hidden. The hearing aids of the 1950s may have appeared comparable 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 plainly. And they’re constantly improving. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been using digital technologies in a number of significant ways. Power is the first and most essential way. Earlier versions contained batteries which had less power in a larger space than their modern counterparts.

And with that increased power comes a long list of sophisticated advances:

  • 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 heavy-duty at the same time. And with the addition of long-lasting, rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how not just the inside–but also the outside–of hearing aids have improved over the years.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids can now communicate with other devices using wireless Bluetooth technology. This can be incredibly useful every day. Older hearing aids, for instance, would have aggravating feedback when you would attempt to talk on the phone. When you connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth, the transition is simple and communicating is effortless. You will also use Bluetooth functions to take part in a wide range of other electronic activities. Because there’s no feedback or interference, it’s easier to watch TV, listen to music–you name it.
  • Speech recognition: For many hearing aid owners, the biggest goal of these devices is to assist in communication. Isolating and boosting voices, then, is a principal feature of the software of many hearing aids–which can be pretty useful in a wide range of situations, from a packed restaurant to an echo-y board room.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss normally manifests as loss of specific wavelengths and frequencies of sound. Maybe low frequency noise is hard to hear (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you can’t hear very well, creating a much more effective hearing aid.
  • Health monitoring: Contemporary hearing aids are also able to incorporate innovative health monitoring software into their options. For example, some hearing aids can detect 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.

The old style hearing aids no longer exemplify what hearing aids are, just as rotary phones no longer illustrate what long distance communication looks like. Hearing aids have changed a lot. And we should be excited because they’re substantially better than they were.

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