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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 modern(ish) hearing aid, it turns out, was engineered during the 1950s–the basic shape, that is. And somehow, that’s the hearing aid which has become identified in our collective consciousness. But thinking of a hearing aid like this isn’t realistic because those old hearing aids are antiquated technology. We need to really advance our thinking if we want to recognize how much more advanced modern hearing aids are.

The History of Hearing Aids

In order to better recognize just how advanced hearing aids have become, it’s helpful to have some perspective about where they started. As far back as the 1500s, you can find some form of hearing aid (though, there’s no confirmation that these wooden, ear-shaped items actually worked).

The first somewhat successful 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 provided some help.

The real revolution came when electricity was invited to the party. In the 1950s the hearing aid as we know it was developed. They were fairly rudimentary, relying on transistors and big, primitive batteries to effectively work. But these devices signify the start of a hearing aid that could be easily worn and hidden. Admittedly, modern hearing aids might share the same shape and function as those early 1950s models–but their performance goes light years beyond what was conceivable 70 years ago.

Hearing Aid’s Modern Capabilities

Bottom line, modern hearing aids are technological masterpieces. And they continue making improvements. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been making use of digital technologies in several profound ways. Power is the first and most crucial way. Earlier versions had batteries which had less power in a bigger space than their modern counterparts.

And a number of cutting-edge advances come with increased power:

  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids can now connect to other devices using wireless Bluetooth technology. This can be extremely useful on a daily basis. Older hearing aids, for example, would have irritating feedback when you would try to talk on the phone. With modern hearing aids, you can simply connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. You will also utilize Bluetooth functions to engage in a wide variety of other electronic activities. Because there isn’t any feedback or interference, it’s easier to listen to music, watch TV–you name it.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are made of high tech materials. These new materials enable 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.
  • Speech recognition: The ultimate goal, for many hearing aid owners, is to enable 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 board room, this feature comes in handy in many circumstances.
  • Health monitoring: Contemporary hearing aids are also capable of incorporating advanced health monitoring software into their options. For example, some hearing aids can recognize whether you’ve had a fall. There are others that can notify you about your fitness goals like how many steps that you’ve taken.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss commonly occurs as loss of specific frequencies and wavelengths of sound. Perhaps you have a more difficult time hearing high-frequency sounds (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids can be programmed to amplify only those sounds that you can’t hear so well, creating a much more efficient hearing aid.

Just as rotary phones no longer represent long-distance communication, the hearing aids of old no longer capture what these devices are. Hearing aids have changed a lot. And that’s a good thing–because now they’re even better.

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