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… antiquated.

The modern(ish) hearing aid, as it happens, was engineered in the 1950s–the basic design, that is. And that old model hearing aid tends to be the one we generally remember and envision. The trouble is that a hearing aid developed in the 1950s is just about as antiquated as an ear trumpet. To understand just how much better modern hearing aids are, we have to unshackle our imaginations.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

So that you can better understand just how advanced hearing aids have become, it’s helpful to have some context about where they started out. As far back as the 1500s, it’s possible to find some form of hearing aid (though, there’s no evidence that these wooden, ear-shaped artifacts were actually effective).

The first partially helpful hearing assistance device was most likely the ear trumpet. This device appeared to be an elongated trumpet. The wide end faced the world and the narrow end was put into your ear. These, um, devices were not exactly high tech, but they did provide some measurable assistance.

The real revolution came when someone invited electricity to the party. In the 1950s the hearing aid as we know it was created. In order to perform their function, they relied on large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a rather rudimentary design. But these devices represent the start of a hearing aid that could easily be worn and hidden. The hearing aids of the 1950s might have looked comparable to modern hearing aids but the technology and capability is worlds apart.

Modern Capabilities of Hearing Aids

Bottom line, modern hearing aids are technological wonders. And they’re constantly improving. Since the later years of the twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been benefiting from digital technologies in a number of powerful ways. Power is the first and most important way. Modern hearing aids can store significantly more power into a much smaller space than their earlier forerunners.

And with that improved power comes a long list of innovative advances:

  • Bluetooth connectivity: Contemporary hearing aids are now able to connect to all of your Bluetooth devices. You will use this function on a daily basis. As an example, hearing aids used to have a difficult time with phone calls because users would hear significant (and sometimes unpleasant) feedback. With contemporary hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. You will also utilize Bluetooth functions to participate in a variety of other electronic activities. Because there isn’t any interference or feedback, it’s easier to watch TV, listen to music–you name it.
  • Health monitoring: Modern hearing aids are also able to incorporate innovative health tracking software into their settings. For example, some hearing aids can recognize when you’ve fallen. There are others that can notify you about your fitness goals such as how many steps that you have taken.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are made of advanced materials. These new materials allow hearing aids to be lighter and more robust 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.
  • Speech recognition: The ultimate objective, for most hearing aid users, is to assist in communication. Separating and amplifying voices, then, is a principal function of the software of many hearing aids–which can be quite handy in a wide range of situations, from a packed restaurant to an echo-y meeting room.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss doesn’t occur across all wavelengths and frequencies uniformly. Perhaps low frequency noise is hard to hear (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids can be programmed to amplify only those sounds that you are unable to hear very well, producing a much more effective hearing aid.

The old style hearing aids no longer exemplify what hearing aids are, in the same way as rotary phones no longer illustrate what long distance communication looks like. Hearing aids have changed a lot. And that’s a positive thing–because now they’re even better.

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