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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 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, it turns out, was introduced in the 1950s–the basic design, that is. And somehow, 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. We need to really expand our thinking if we want to understand how much better modern hearing aids are.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

In order to better comprehend just how sophisticated hearing aids have become, it’s helpful to have some perspective about where they started out. If we trace the history back far enough, you can probably find some type of hearing assistance device as far back as the 1500s (whether any of them ever actually helped you hear better is still up for debate).

The “ear trumpet” was perhaps the first somewhat effective hearing assistance approach. This device was shaped like, well, a long horn. You would put the narrow end inside your ear so that the wide end faced out. These, er, devices weren’t really high tech, but they did offer some measurable assistance.

When electricity was introduced, hearing aids experienced a significant innovation. The hearing aid that we are familiar with was essentially created in the 1950s. In order to do their job, they relied on large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a quite basic design. But a hearing aid that could be conveniently worn and hidden started with these devices. Admittedly, modern hearing aids may share the same form and function as those early 1950s models–but their functionality goes light years beyond what was possible 7 decades ago.

Modern Features of Hearing Aids

Bottom line, modern hearing aids are technological wonders. And they continue making improvements. In numerous significant ways, modern hearing aids have been taking advantage of the digital technology of the later part of the twentieth century. Power is the first and most essential way. Modern hearing aids can store significantly more power into a much smaller space than their earlier forerunners.

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

  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids are now able to communicate with other devices using wireless Bluetooth technology. You will use this feature on a daily basis. As an example, hearing aids used to have a difficult time with telephone calls because users would experience substantial (and sometimes unpleasant) feedback. 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 participate in a wide variety of other electronic activities. This means quick, feedback free connection to your TV, music, etc.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss doesn’t manifest through all wavelengths and frequencies uniformly. Maybe low frequency sound is hard to hear (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids are a lot more effective because they can boost only the frequencies you have a difficult time hearing.
  • Speech recognition: The biggest objective, for most hearing aid users, is to facilitate communication. Many hearing aids, then, have built-in speech recognition software created to separate and boost voices primarily–from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y board room, this feature comes in handy in many circumstances.
  • Health monitoring: Sophisticated Health monitoring software is also integrated into modern hearing aid options. For instance, some hearing aids can recognize whether you’ve had a fall. Other features can count your steps or give you exercise support.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids are typically made of advanced 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 only the inside–but also the outside–of hearing aids have improved over the years.

The older style hearing aids no longer exemplify what hearing aids are, just as rotary phones no longer illustrate what long distance communication looks like. Hearing aids aren’t what they used to be. And that’s a positive thing–because now they’re even better.

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