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 use one? Because that technology is hundreds of years old. Okay, I suppose that seems logical. Ear trumpets are a bit… archaic.

The fundamental shape of the modern hearing aid was developed in the 1950s. And somehow, that’s the hearing aid which has become established in our collective consciousness. But thinking of a hearing aid like this isn’t realistic because those old hearing aids are out-dated technology. To comprehend just how much better modern hearing aids are, we have to unshackle our imaginations.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

It’s helpful to have some context about where hearing aids started to be able to better perceive how sophisticated they have become. If we follow the history back far enough, you can probably find some form of hearing assistance device as far back as the 1500s (whether any of them ever really helped you improve your hearing is still up for debate).

The first somewhat helpful hearing assistance device was most likely the ear trumpet. This device looked like a long trumpet. You would place the small end in your ear so that the wide end pointed out. These, um, devices were not really high tech, but they did offer some measurable help.

When electricity was introduced, hearing aids had a significant innovation. In the 1950s the hearing aid as we know it was developed. In order to perform their function, they relied on large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a fairly basic design. But a hearing aid that could be easily 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 functionality is worlds apart.

Modern Features of Hearing Aids

Put simply, modern hearing aids are technological masterpieces. And they continue making improvements. In many powerful ways, modern hearing aids have been making use of the digital technology of the later part of the twentieth century. Power is the first and most essential way. Earlier models had batteries that had less power in a larger space than their modern counterparts.

And a long list of sophisticated advances come with greater power:

  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids can now communicate with other devices using wireless Bluetooth technology. This can be incredibly useful on a daily basis. Old style hearing aids, for example, would have aggravating feedback when you would attempt to talk on the telephone. With modern hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. This is true for a wide variety of other scenarios involving electronic devices. Because there isn’t any feedback or interference, it’s easier to watch TV, listen to music–you name it.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are constructed from advanced materials. While these new materials enable hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also enables 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 improved over the years.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss commonly occurs as loss of specific wavelengths and frequencies of sound. Maybe low frequency sound gets lost (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids are far more efficient because they will boost only the frequencies you have a difficult time hearing.
  • Speech recognition: For countless hearing aid owners, the biggest goal of these devices is to assist in communication. Some hearing aids, then, have integrated speech recognition software designed to separate and amplify voices primarily–which can be very helpful in a wide variety of situations, from a packed restaurant to an echo-y board room.
  • Health monitoring: Advanced Health tracking software is also incorporated into modern hearing aid options. if you fall, for example, some hearing aids can detect that. There are others that can notify you about your fitness goals such as how many steps that you’ve taken.

The old style hearing aids no longer exemplify 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 once were. And that’s a good thing–because now they’re even better.

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