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

When was the last time you utilized that old ear trumpet? No? You don’t use one? Because that technology is hundreds of years old. Okay, I suppose that seems logical. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.

The basic shape of the modern hearing aid was designed in the 1950s. And that old model hearing aid is generally the one we remember and envision. The trouble is that a hearing aid made in the 1950s is just about as antiquated as an ear trumpet. We need to really expand our thinking if we want to get an accurate picture of how how much more advanced modern hearing aids are.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

It’s worthwhile to have some perspective about where hearing aids began so that you can better perceive how advanced 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 evidence that these wooden, ear-shaped items actually worked).

The first somewhat helpful hearing assistance apparatus was probably the ear trumpet. This construct was shaped like, well, a long trumpet. You would put the small end into your ear so that the wide end pointed out. At present, you wouldn’t consider this device high tech, but back then they actually offer some assistance.

Once electricity was introduced, hearing aids experienced a real revolution. The hearing aid that we are familiar with was really developed in the 1950s. They were fairly basic, relying on transistors and large, antiquated batteries to get the job done. But these devices represent the birth of a hearing aid that could easily be worn and concealed. Admittedly, modern hearing aids may share the same shape and function as those early 1950s designs–but their functionality goes far beyond what was conceivable 70 years ago.

Modern Features of Hearing Aids

Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it plainly. And they’re constantly developing. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been utilizing digital technologies in some profound ways. Power is the first and most important way. Earlier versions contained batteries that had less power in a larger space than their current counterparts.

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

  • Speech recognition: For many hearing aid owners, the supreme objective of these devices is to enable communication. Many hearing aids, then, have built-in speech recognition software developed to separate and boost voices primarily–which can be pretty useful in a wide variety of scenarios, from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y board room.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are made of high tech materials. These new materials permit hearing aids to be lighter and more heavy-duty simultaneously. 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.
  • Health monitoring: Contemporary hearing aids are also capable of incorporating advanced health monitoring software into their settings. For instance, some hearing aids can detect when you’ve fallen. There are others that can notify you about your fitness goals like how many steps that you have taken.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Modern hearing aids can now communicate with all of your Bluetooth devices. You will use this function on a daily basis. Old style hearing aids, for instance, would have irritating feedback when you would try to talk on the telephone. With contemporary hearing aids, you can simply connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. You will also use Bluetooth connectivity to participate in a variety of other electronic activities. This means simple, feedback free connection to your music, TV, etc.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss does not occur through all frequencies and wavelengths uniformly. Perhaps you have a harder time hearing high-frequency noises (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you are unable to hear very well, creating a much more efficient hearing aid.

Just like rotary phones no longer represent long-distance communication, older hearing aids no longer capture what these devices are. Hearing aids aren’t what they used to be. And we should be excited because they’re substantially better than they were.

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