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

The modern(ish) hearing aid, as it happens, was introduced during the 1950s–the basic shape, that is. And somehow, that’s the hearing aid which has become identified in our collective consciousness. The problem is that a hearing aid built 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 unleash our imaginations.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

To be able to better recognize just how advanced hearing aids have become, it’s useful to have some perspective about where they started. If we trace the history back far enough, you can probably find some form of hearing assistance device as far back as the 1500s (though, there’s no evidence that these wooden, ear-shaped items actually worked).

The first partially helpful hearing assistance device was probably the ear trumpet. This device appeared to be an elongated horn. The wide end pointed out and the narrow end was put inside your ear. At present, you wouldn’t consider this device high tech, but back then they actually provided some assistance.

When electricity was introduced, hearing aids experienced a real revolution. In the 1950s the hearing aid as we know it was developed. In order to perform their function, they made use of large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a quite basic design. But these gadgets represent the beginning of a hearing aid that could easily be worn and hidden. Admittedly, modern hearing aids may share the same form and mission as those early 1950s models–but their functionality goes far beyond what was conceivable 70 years ago.

Hearing Aid’s Modern Features

Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it plainly. And they’re always improving. In a number of powerful ways, modern hearing aids have been using the digital technology of the later part of the twentieth century. Power is the first and most important way. Modern hearing aids can pack substantially more power into a much smaller space than their earlier predecessors.

And a long list of innovative advances come with greater power:

  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss commonly occurs as loss of certain wavelengths and frequencies of sound. Maybe you have a harder time hearing high-frequency noises (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you can’t hear so well, creating a much more efficient hearing aid.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are constructed from high tech materials. While these new materials allow hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also allows them to be more robust. It’s easy to see how hearing aids have advanced on the outside as well as the inside with the addition of long lasting and rechargeable batteries.
  • Speech recognition: For lots of hearing aid owners, the biggest objective of these devices is to facilitate communication. Separating and boosting voices, then, is a principal feature of the software of many hearing aids–from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y meeting hall, this feature is useful in many situations.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Modern hearing aids are now able to connect to all of your Bluetooth devices. This can be very helpful on a daily basis. For example, hearing aids used to have a tough time dealing with phone calls because users would experience significant (and sometimes unpleasant) feedback. When you connect to your phone using Bluetooth, the transition is smooth and communication is easy. You will also use Bluetooth functions to participate in a variety of other electronic activities. This means simple, feedback free connection to your TV, music, etc.
  • Health monitoring: State-of-the-art Health monitoring software is also integrated into modern hearing aid 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, in the same way as rotary phones no longer illustrate what long distance communication looks like. Hearing aids aren’t what they once were. And that’s a good thing–because now they’re even better.

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