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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 have one? Because that technology is centuries old. Okay, I suppose that seems logical. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.

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. To understand just how much better modern hearing aids are, we have to unshackle our imaginations.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

In order to better understand just how sophisticated hearing aids have become, it’s useful to have some context about where they started out. As far back as the 1500s, you can come across some form of hearing aid (whether any of them ever really helped you hear better is still up for debate).

The first moderately helpful hearing assistance device was probably the ear trumpet. This device was shaped like, well, a long horn. The wide end faced the world and the small end was directed into your ear. These, um, devices were not really high tech, but they did offer some measurable help.

When electricity was introduced, hearing aids experienced a real innovation. In the 1950s the hearing aid as we know it was created. In order to do their job, they made use of large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a quite basic design. But a hearing aid that could be conveniently worn and hidden began with these devices. The hearing aids of the 1950s might have appeared similar to modern hearing aids but the technology and capability is worlds apart.

Modern Features of Hearing Aids

Simply put, modern hearing aids are technological wonders. And they’re constantly developing. Since the later years of the twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been taking advantage of digital technologies in a few profound ways. Power is the first and most essential way. Earlier models contained batteries which 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 permit hearing aids to be lighter and more robust at the same time. It’s easy to see how hearing aids have improved on the outside as well as the inside by adding long lasting and rechargeable batteries.
  • Speech recognition: The biggest objective, for many hearing aid users, is to assist in communication. Separating and amplifying voices, then, is a primary function of the software of many hearing aids–from a packed restaurant to an echo-y board room, this feature comes in handy in many situations.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss normally manifests as loss of certain wavelengths and frequencies of sound. Maybe low frequency noise is hard to hear (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids can be programmed to amplify only those sounds that you can’t hear so well, resulting in a much more efficient hearing aid.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids are now able to communicate with other devices via wireless Bluetooth technology. This can be extremely useful on a daily basis. Old style hearing aids, for example, would have aggravating feedback when you would try to talk on the phone. When you connect to your phone via Bluetooth, the transition is smooth and communication is easy. You will also use Bluetooth connectivity to engage in a wide range of other electronic activities. Because there isn’t any interference or feedback, it’s easier to listen to music, watch TV–you name it.
  • Health monitoring: Modern hearing aids are also capable of incorporating advanced health tracking software into their options. For instance, some hearing aids can recognize when you’ve fallen. Other features can count your steps or give you exercise encouragement.

The older style hearing aids no longer represent 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 that’s a good thing–because now they’re even better.

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