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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 have one? Because that technology is hundreds of years old. Okay, I suppose that makes sense. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.

The basic shape of the modern hearing aid was developed in the 1950s. And that old model hearing aid tends to be the one we generally remember and picture. But visualizing a hearing aid like this isn’t accurate because those old hearing aids are out-dated technology. We need to really expand our thinking if we want to understand how much more advanced modern hearing aids are.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

In order to better recognize just how advanced hearing aids have become, it’s useful to have some context about where they began. As far back as the 1500s, it’s possible to find some type of hearing aid (though, there’s no confirmation that these wooden, ear-shaped artifacts were actually effective).

The “ear trumpet” was perhaps the first partially effective hearing assistance approach. This construct was shaped like, well, a long trumpet. You would place the narrow end into your ear so that the wide end faced out. These, er, devices were not exactly high tech, but they did provide some measurable assistance.

The real revolution came when someone invited electricity to the party. The hearing aid as we now know it was essentially developed in the 1950s. In order to perform their function, they relied on large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a fairly basic design. But a hearing aid that could be easily worn and hidden began 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.

Modern Capabilities of Hearing Aids

Put simply, modern hearing aids are technological wonders. And they continue getting better. In a number of profound ways, modern hearing aids have been using the digital technology of the later twentieth century. The first, and the most essential way, is simple: power. Modern hearing aids can store significantly more power into a much smaller space than their earlier forerunners.

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

  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss doesn’t manifest through all wavelengths and frequencies equally. Perhaps low frequency noise is hard to hear (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you are unable to hear so well, resulting in a much more efficient hearing aid.
  • Health monitoring: Modern hearing aids are also capable of incorporating sophisticated health tracking software into their settings. For instance, some hearing aids can detect when you’ve fallen. There are other functions that can keep you informed about your fitness goals such as how many steps that you have taken.
  • Speech recognition: The ultimate objective, for most hearing aid users, is to enhance communication. Separating and amplifying voices, then, is a principal feature of the software of many hearing aids–which can be very helpful in a wide variety of situations, from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y board room.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are constructed from advanced materials. These new materials allow 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: Modern hearing aids are now able to connect to all of your Bluetooth devices. You will utilize this feature every day. Old style hearing aids, for instance, would have irritating feedback when you would attempt to talk on the telephone. With contemporary hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. This applies to a wide variety of other situations regarding electronic devices. Because there’s no interference or feedback, it’s easier to listen to music, watch TV–you name it.

Just like rotary phones no longer exemplify long-distance communication, the hearing aids of old no longer capture what these devices are. Hearing aids aren’t what they once were. And that’s a good thing–because now they’re even better.

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