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

Have you used your ear trumpet lately? No? You don’t have one? Because that technology is centuries old. Okay, I suppose that makes sense. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.

The modern(ish) hearing aid, as it happens, was engineered during the 1950s–the basic design, that is. And for some reason, that’s the hearing aid which has become established in our collective consciousness. The problem is that a hearing aid developed in the 1950s is just about as out-dated as an ear trumpet. To understand just how much better modern hearing aids are, we have to unshackle our imaginations.

The History of Hearing Aids

So that you can better comprehend just how advanced hearing aids have become, it’s helpful to have some perspective about where they started. As far back as the 1500s, it’s possible to find some type of hearing aid (whether any of them ever really helped you improve your hearing is still up for debate).

The “ear trumpet” was perhaps the first somewhat useful hearing assistance apparatus. This device was shaped like, well, a long trumpet. You would put the small end in your ear so that the wide end faced out. These, um, devices were not exactly high tech, but they did offer some measurable assistance.

The real revolution came when electricity was invited to the party. In the 1950s the hearing aid that we are all familiar with was developed. In order to perform their function, they made use of large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a fairly rudimentary design. But a hearing aid that could be conveniently worn and hidden began with these devices. The hearing aids of the 1950s may have appeared comparable to modern hearing aids but the technology and capability is worlds apart.

Hearing Aid’s Modern Capabilities

Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it plainly. And they continue making improvements. Since the later years of the twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been using digital technologies in a few powerful ways. Power is the first and most important way. Modern hearing aids can pack substantially more power into a much smaller space than their earlier forerunners.

And a long list of sophisticated developments come with increased power:

  • Health monitoring: Modern hearing aids are also capable of incorporating advanced health monitoring software into their settings. if you fall, for example, some hearing aids can detect that. Other features can count your steps or give you exercise encouragement.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids are now able to connect to other devices via wireless Bluetooth technology. You will use this function on a daily basis. Older hearing aids, for instance, would have irritating feedback when you would try to talk on the phone. With contemporary hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. You will also use Bluetooth functions to participate in a variety of other electronic activities. Because there’s no 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 constructed from high tech materials. While these new materials enable hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also allows them to be more robust. And by adding long-lasting, rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how not only the inside–but also the outside–of hearing aids have advanced over the years.
  • Speech recognition: For countless hearing aid owners, the ultimate objective of these devices is to assist in communication. Some hearing aids, then, have integrated speech recognition software created to separate and amplify voices mainly–which can be very handy in a wide variety of scenarios, from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y meeting room.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss does not manifest through all wavelengths and frequencies equally. Maybe low frequency sound is hard to hear (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids are far more efficient because they will amplify only the frequencies you have a difficult time hearing.

The old style hearing aids no longer represent what hearing aids are, in the same way as rotary phones no longer capture what long distance communication looks like. Hearing aids aren’t what they used to be. And we should be excited because they’re a lot better than they used to be.

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