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 hundreds of years old. Okay, I suppose that seems logical. Ear trumpets are a bit… archaic.

The modern(ish) hearing aid, as it happens, was developed during the 1950s–the basic shape, that is. And that old model hearing aid is generally the one we remember and picture. The problem is that a hearing aid built in the 1950s is just about as out-dated 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

To be able to better understand just how sophisticated hearing aids have become, it’s helpful to have some perspective about where they started. If we trace the history back far enough, you can likely find some type of hearing assistance device as far back as the 1500s (whether any of them ever actually helped you hear better is probably unlikely).

The “ear trumpet” was most likely the first marginally useful hearing assistance apparatus. This device looked like an elongated horn. You would place the narrow end in your ear so that the wide end pointed out. These, um, devices weren’t exactly high tech, but they did provide some measurable help.

The real innovation came once someone invited electricity to the party. The hearing aid that we are familiar with was essentially created in the 1950s. In order to work properly, they relied on large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a rather basic design. But a hearing aid that could be conveniently worn and hidden started with these devices. The hearing aids of the 1950s might have looked comparable to modern hearing aids but the technology and functionality is worlds apart.

Hearing Aid’s Modern Features

Bottom line, modern hearing aids are technological wonders. And they keep making improvements. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been taking advantage of digital technologies in a number of 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 increased power comes a large number of innovative advances:

  • Construction: Modern hearing aids are normally constructed out of high tech materials, so they feel more comfortable. These new materials permit hearing aids to be lighter and more heavy-duty simultaneously. 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.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Modern hearing aids can now communicate with all of your Bluetooth devices. You will use this feature on a daily basis. For instance, hearing aids in the past had a difficult time with phone calls because users would hear significant (and sometimes uncomfortable) feedback. When you connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth, the transition is smooth and communicating is effortless. You will also utilize Bluetooth connectivity to take part in a variety of other electronic activities. Because there’s no interference or feedback, it’s easier to watch TV, listen to music–you name it.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss usually occurs as loss of certain frequencies and wavelengths of sound. Maybe you have a more difficult time hearing high-frequency noises (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids can be programmed to amplify only those sounds that you can’t hear very well, creating a much more effective hearing aid.
  • Health monitoring: Sophisticated Health tracking software is also integrated into modern hearing aid options. For instance, some hearing aids can detect when you’ve had a fall. Other functions can count your steps or give you exercise motivation.
  • Speech recognition: For countless hearing aid users, the ultimate objective of these devices is to facilitate communication. Many hearing aids, then, have built-in speech recognition software designed to separate and amplify voices mainly–from a packed restaurant to an echo-y meeting hall, this feature comes in handy in many situations.

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 that’s a good thing–because now they’re even better.

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