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

Have you utilized your ear trumpet lately? No? You don’t use one? Because that technology is centuries old. Okay, I suppose that seems logical. Ear trumpets are a bit… archaic.

The fundamental shape of the modern hearing aid was designed in the 1950s. And for some reason, that’s the hearing aid which has become identified in our collective consciousness. The trouble is that a hearing aid developed in the 1950s is just about as antiquated as a hearing trumpet. We need to really advance our thinking if we want to understand how much more advanced modern hearing aids are.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

It’s worthwhile to have some context about where hearing aids began in order to better comprehend how sophisticated they have become. If we trace the history back far enough, you can most likely find some form of hearing assistance device as far back as the 1500s (though, there’s no confirmation that these wooden, ear-shaped items actually worked).

The “ear trumpet” was most likely the first partially useful hearing assistance apparatus. This device appeared to be a long horn. The wide end faced the world and the narrow end was directed into your ear. These, er, devices weren’t really high tech, but they did offer some measurable help.

The real innovation came when someone invited electricity to the party. In the 1950s the hearing aid that we are all familiar with was developed. They were fairly rudimentary, relying on transistors and big, primitive batteries to effectively work. But a hearing aid that could be conveniently worn and hidden began with these devices. Admittedly, modern hearing aids may share the same shape and mission as those early 1950s models–but their functionality goes light years beyond what was conceivable 70 years ago.

Modern Capabilities of Hearing Aids

Bottom line, modern hearing aids are technological masterpieces. And they’re always developing. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been making use of digital technologies in a few powerful ways. Power is the first and most essential way. Earlier versions contained batteries that had less power in a bigger space than their current counterparts.

And with that greater power comes a long list of sophisticated advances:

  • Construction: Modern hearing aids are typically constructed out of high tech materials, so they feel more comfortable. These new materials enable hearing aids to be lighter and more heavy-duty simultaneously. And with the addition of long-lasting, rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how not only the inside–but the outside–of hearing aids have advanced over the years.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss doesn’t occur through all wavelengths and frequencies equally. Perhaps you have a more difficult time hearing high-frequency sounds (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids are a lot more effective because they can boost only the frequencies you have a hard time hearing.
  • Speech recognition: For lots of hearing aid users, the ultimate goal of these devices is to assist in communication. Isolating and amplifying 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 comes in handy in many situations.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Modern hearing aids can now connect to all of your Bluetooth devices. This can be extremely helpful on a daily basis. For example, hearing aids in the past had a tough time dealing with telephone calls because users would hear substantial (and sometimes uncomfortable) feedback. With modern hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. This is true for a wide range of other situations involving electronic devices. Because there isn’t any interference or feedback, it’s easier to listen to music, watch TV–you name it.
  • Health monitoring: Contemporary hearing aids are also able to incorporate innovative health monitoring software into their options. if you have a fall, for instance, some hearing aids can recognize that. Other functions can count your steps or give you exercise encouragement.

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 positive thing–because now they’re even better.

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