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

Have you used your ear trumpet lately? No? You don’t use one? Because that technology is centuries 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 for some reason, that’s the hearing aid which has become established in our collective consciousness. The problem is that a hearing aid developed in the 1950s is just about as out-dated as an ear trumpet. To comprehend just how much better modern hearing aids are, we have to unshackle our imaginations.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

It’s helpful to have some context concerning where hearing aids began in order to better perceive how advanced they have become. If we follow the history back far enough, you can probably find some type of hearing assistance device as far back as the 1500s (whether any of them ever really helped you improve your hearing is still up for debate).

The “ear trumpet” was probably the first marginally useful hearing assistance mechanism. This device looked like a long horn. The wide end pointed out and the narrow end was oriented into your ear. These, er, devices were not really high tech, but they did provide some measurable help.

The real innovation came when someone invited electricity to the party. The hearing aid that we are familiar with was really created in the 1950s. They were rather basic, relying on transistors and large, antiquated 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 may have appeared comparable to modern hearing aids but the technology and functionality is worlds apart.

Modern Features of Hearing Aids

Put simply, modern hearing aids are technological wonders. And they’re always developing. Since the later years of the twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been benefiting from digital technologies in several significant ways. The first, and the most important way, is simple: power. Modern hearing aids can pack substantially more power into a much smaller space than their earlier predecessors.

And a long list of sophisticated advances come with increased power:

  • Health monitoring: Contemporary hearing aids are also capable of incorporating advanced health tracking software into their settings. if you fall, for instance, some hearing aids can detect that. There are others that can notify you about your fitness goals like how many steps that you’ve taken.
  • Speech recognition: The ultimate goal, for many hearing aid owners, is to assist in communication. Some hearing aids, then, have integrated speech recognition software designed to separate and amplify voices primarily–which can be quite helpful in a wide range of situations, from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y board room.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss commonly occurs as loss of specific wavelengths and frequencies of sound. Maybe you have a harder time hearing high-frequency sounds (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you are unable to hear very well, resulting in a much more effective hearing aid.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids are now able to communicate with other devices via wireless Bluetooth technology. You will use this feature every day. As an example, hearing aids used to have a hard time dealing with telephone calls because users would hear substantial (and sometimes unpleasant) feedback. When you connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth, the transition is simple and communicating is easy. You will also utilize Bluetooth connectivity to participate in a wide variety of other electronic activities. Because there isn’t any feedback or interference, it’s easier to watch TV, listen to music–you name it.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are constructed from high tech materials. These new materials enable hearing aids to be lighter and more heavy-duty at the same time. 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.

Just like rotary phones no longer represent long-distance communication, older hearing aids no longer capture what these devices are. Hearing aids have changed a lot. And we should be excited because they’re a lot better than they used to be.

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