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

The basic shape of the modern hearing aid was designed in the 1950s. And that old model hearing aid tends to be the one we generally remember and think of. The problem is that a hearing aid made in the 1950s is just about as out-dated as an ear trumpet. To comprehend just how much better modern hearing aids are, we have to unleash our imaginations.

The History of Hearing Aids

It’s helpful to have some perspective about where hearing aids started to be able to better understand how advanced they have become. As far back as the 1500s, it’s possible to come across some type of hearing aid (though, there’s no proof that these wooden, ear-shaped items actually worked).

The “ear trumpet” was probably the first partially effective hearing assistance apparatus. This device looked like an elongated trumpet. You would place the narrow end in your ear so that the wide end pointed out. These, um, devices were not exactly high tech, but they did offer some measurable help.

The real innovation came once electricity was invited to the party. The hearing aid that we are familiar with was really created in the 1950s. In order to work properly, they made use of large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a quite basic design. But a hearing aid that could be easily worn and hidden started with these devices. Of course, modern hearing aids may share the same form and function as those early 1950s designs–but their performance goes far beyond what was possible 70 years ago.

Modern Features of Hearing Aids

Put simply, modern hearing aids are technological masterpieces. And they’re constantly improving. Since the later years of the twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been using digital technologies in a number of powerful ways. The first, and the most essential way, is straight forward: power. Modern hearing aids can pack substantially more power into a much smaller area than their earlier forerunners.

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

  • Speech recognition: The ultimate objective, for many hearing aid owners, is to assist in communication. Some hearing aids, then, have integrated speech recognition software designed to isolate and boost voices mainly–from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y board room, this feature comes in handy in many circumstances.
  • Health monitoring: Modern hearing aids are also able to incorporate sophisticated health tracking software into their settings. For instance, some hearing aids can recognize whether you’ve had a fall. Other features can count your steps or give you exercise encouragement.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss normally manifests as loss of specific wavelengths and frequencies of sound. Maybe low frequency noise is hard to hear (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids are far more efficient because they will amplify only the frequencies you have a hard time hearing.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids are usually constructed out of high tech materials, so they feel more comfortable. While these new materials permit hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also allows them to be more heavy-duty. 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 advanced over the years.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Contemporary hearing aids can now communicate with all of your Bluetooth devices. You will utilize this function on a daily basis. For example, hearing aids in the past had a hard time with phone calls because users would experience substantial (and sometimes unpleasant) feedback. When you connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth, the transition is simple and communication is easy. You will also use Bluetooth connectivity to take part in a variety of other electronic activities. Because there isn’t any interference or feedback, it’s easier to listen to music, watch TV–you name it.

Just as rotary phones no longer represent long-distance communication, the hearing aids of old no longer capture what these devices are. 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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