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

Have you utilized 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, it turns out, was engineered in the 1950s–the basic design, that is. And for some reason, that’s the hearing aid which has become identified in our collective consciousness. The trouble is that a hearing aid made in the 1950s is just about as antiquated 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

To be able to better understand just how advanced 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 hear better is probably unlikely).

The first moderately successful hearing assistance apparatus was probably the ear trumpet. This device appeared to be an elongated horn. The wide end pointed out and the narrow end was directed into your ear. Today, you wouldn’t think of this device as high tech, but back then they actually provided some help.

When electricity was introduced, hearing aids had a major revolution. In the 1950s the hearing aid as we know it was created. They were fairly rudimentary, using transistors and large, primitive batteries to effectively work. But a hearing aid that could be conveniently worn and hidden began with these devices. The hearing aids of the 1950s might have looked comparable to modern hearing aids but the technology and functionality is worlds apart.

Modern Features of Hearing Aids

Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it bluntly. And they continue making improvements. In numerous powerful ways, modern hearing aids have been making use of the digital technology of the later twentieth century. The first, and the most essential way, is straight forward: power. Modern hearing aids can store considerably more power into a much smaller space than their earlier predecessors.

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

  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are constructed from high tech materials. While these new materials permit hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also allows them to be more robust. And with the addition of long-lasting, rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how not only the inside–but also the outside–of hearing aids have improved over the years.
  • Health monitoring: Advanced Health monitoring software is also integrated into modern hearing aid options. For example, some hearing aids can recognize whether you’ve fallen. Other functions can count your steps or give you exercise support.
  • Speech recognition: For many hearing aid owners, the ultimate goal of these devices is to facilitate communication. Separating and boosting voices, then, is a primary function of the software of many hearing aids–which can be pretty helpful in a wide variety of situations, from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y board room.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss commonly occurs as loss of certain wavelengths and frequencies of sound. Maybe low frequency sound gets lost (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids are a lot more efficient because they will amplify only the frequencies you have a hard time hearing.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Contemporary hearing aids are now able to connect to all of your Bluetooth devices. You will utilize this feature on a daily basis. Older hearing aids, for example, would have irritating feedback when you would try to talk on the phone. With modern hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. You will also utilize Bluetooth connectivity to take part in a wide variety of other electronic activities. This means simple, feedback free connection to your music, TV, etc.

The old style hearing aids no longer exemplify what hearing aids are, just as rotary phones no longer capture what long distance communication looks like. Hearing aids aren’t what they used to be. And we should be excited because they’re much better than they used to be.

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