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 centuries old. Okay, I suppose that makes sense. Ear trumpets are a bit… archaic.

The modern(ish) hearing aid, as it happens, was engineered during the 1950s–the basic shape, that is. And that old style hearing aid is generally the one we remember and think of. The problem is that a hearing aid made in the 1950s is just about as antiquated as a hearing trumpet. We need to really advance our thinking if we want to get an accurate picture of how how much more advanced modern hearing aids are.

The History of Hearing Aids

It’s worthwhile to have some perspective about where hearing aids began to be able to better comprehend how advanced they have become. As far back as the 1500s, you can find some type of hearing aid (though, there’s no evidence that these wooden, ear-shaped items were actually effective).

The first moderately helpful hearing assistance device was most likely the ear trumpet. This device looked like a long trumpet. You would place the small end inside your ear so that the wide end pointed out. These, er, devices were not really high tech, but they did provide some measurable assistance.

The real innovation came when someone invited electricity to the party. In the 1950s the hearing aid that we are all familiar with was created. They were rather basic, relying on transistors and big, antiquated batteries to get the job done. But these gadgets represent the birth of a hearing aid that could be easily worn and hidden. Of course, modern hearing aids might share the same shape and function as those early 1950s models–but their performance goes light years beyond what was conceivable 7 decades ago.

Hearing Aid’s Modern Capabilities

Put simply, modern hearing aids are technological masterpieces. And they keep making improvements. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been making use of digital technologies in some significant ways. The first, and the most crucial way, is simple: power. Earlier models contained batteries which had less power in a bigger space than their current counterparts.

And with that greater power comes a large number of sophisticated developments:

  • Health monitoring: Modern hearing aids are also capable of incorporating sophisticated health tracking software into their settings. For example, some hearing aids can detect when you’ve fallen. Other functions can count your steps or give you exercise support.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids are typically constructed out of high tech materials, so they feel more comfortable. These new materials permit hearing aids to be lighter and more robust simultaneously. It’s easy to see how hearing aids have improved on the outside as well as the inside with the addition of long lasting and rechargeable batteries.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids are now able to connect to other devices using wireless Bluetooth technology. This can be incredibly helpful on a daily basis. Old style hearing aids, for instance, would have aggravating feedback when you would attempt to talk on the phone. When you connect to your phone via Bluetooth, the transition is simple and communication is easy. This is true for a wide range of other scenarios involving electronic devices. This means quick, feedback free connection to your music, TV, etc.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss commonly occurs as loss of certain frequencies and wavelengths of sound. Perhaps you have a more difficult time hearing high-frequency sounds (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids are far more effective because they are able to amplify only the frequencies you have a hard time hearing.
  • Speech recognition: For lots of hearing aid users, the biggest objective of these devices is to facilitate communication. Isolating and amplifying voices, then, is a primary feature of the software of many hearing aids–which can be pretty helpful in a wide variety of situations, from a packed restaurant to an echo-y board room.

Just like rotary phones no longer exemplify long-distance communication, older hearing aids no longer represent 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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