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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 use one? Because that technology is centuries old. Okay, I suppose that makes sense. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.

The basic shape of the modern hearing aid was developed in the 1950s. And somehow, 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 out-dated as a hearing trumpet. To comprehend just how much better modern hearing aids are, we have to unshackle our imaginations.

The History of Hearing Aids

It’s useful to have some context about where hearing aids started in order to better understand how advanced they have become. As far back as the 1500s, you can come across some form of hearing aid (though, there’s no confirmation that these wooden, ear-shaped artifacts actually worked).

The first somewhat successful hearing assistance apparatus was probably the ear trumpet. This construct was shaped like, well, a long trumpet. The wide end pointed out and the small end was oriented into your ear. These, er, devices weren’t exactly high tech, but they did offer some measurable help.

Once electricity was introduced, hearing aids had a major revolution. In the 1950s the hearing aid as we know it was developed. In order to perform their function, they made use of large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a rather basic design. But these gadgets represent the birth of a hearing aid that could be easily worn and concealed. Of course, modern hearing aids might share the same form and function as those early 1950s models–but their performance goes light years beyond what was possible 70 years ago.

Hearing Aid’s Modern Features

Put simply, modern hearing aids are technological wonders. And they’re always developing. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been benefiting from digital technologies in a number of profound ways. Power is the first and most crucial way. Modern hearing aids can store substantially more power into a much smaller space than their earlier predecessors.

And with that increased power comes a large number of sophisticated advances:

  • Bluetooth connectivity: Contemporary hearing aids are now able to communicate with all of your Bluetooth devices. You will utilize this feature every day. Older hearing aids, for instance, would have aggravating feedback when you would attempt to talk on the telephone. When you connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth, the transition is simple and communication is easy. This is true for a wide variety of other scenarios involving electronic devices. Because there’s no feedback or interference, it’s easier to listen to music, watch TV–you name it.
  • Speech recognition: The biggest goal, for many hearing aid owners, is to facilitate communication. Some hearing aids, then, have built-in speech recognition software created to separate and amplify voices mainly–from a busy restaurant to an echo-y board room, this feature is useful in many circumstances.
  • Health monitoring: Contemporary hearing aids are also able to incorporate innovative health monitoring software into their options. For example, some hearing aids can recognize when you’ve had a fall. Other functions can count your steps or give you exercise encouragement.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are made of advanced materials. These new materials permit hearing aids to be lighter and more heavy-duty simultaneously. And by adding long-lasting, rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how not just the inside–but also the outside–of hearing aids have improved over the years.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss commonly manifests 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, producing a much more effective hearing aid.

Just like rotary phones no longer exemplify long-distance communication, the hearing aids of old no longer represent 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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