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

When was the last time you used that old ear trumpet? No? You don’t have one? Because that technology is hundreds of years old. Okay, I suppose that seems logical. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.

The basic shape of the modern hearing aid was designed in the 1950s. And for some reason, 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. We need to really expand our thinking if we want to get an accurate picture of how much better modern hearing aids are.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

In order to better comprehend just how advanced hearing aids have become, it’s helpful to have some context about where they started out. As far back as the 1500s, it’s possible to come across some form of hearing aid (though, there’s no proof that these wooden, ear-shaped artifacts were actually effective).

The “ear trumpet” was probably the first somewhat effective hearing assistance approach. This construct was shaped like, well, a long horn. You would place the small end in your ear so that the wide end faced out. These, er, devices weren’t really high tech, but they did provide some measurable assistance.

The real revolution came when someone invited electricity to the party. The hearing aid as we now know it was essentially developed in the 1950s. In order to work properly, they relied on large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a quite rudimentary design. But a hearing aid that could be conveniently worn and hidden began with these devices. The hearing aids of the 1950s might have appeared comparable to modern hearing aids but the technology and capability is worlds apart.

Modern Capabilities 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 some profound ways. Power is the first and most crucial way. Modern hearing aids can store significantly more power into a much smaller area than their earlier forerunners.

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

  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids are now able to connect to other devices via wireless Bluetooth technology. This can be very helpful on a daily basis. Old style hearing aids, for example, would have aggravating feedback when you would try to talk on the telephone. When you connect to your phone using Bluetooth, the transition is simple and communicating is easy. This applies to a wide range of other scenarios regarding electronic devices. Because there’s no feedback or interference, it’s easier to watch TV, listen to music–you name it.
  • Speech recognition: For countless hearing aid owners, the ultimate goal of these devices is to facilitate communication. Some hearing aids, then, have integrated speech recognition software developed to separate and amplify voices primarily–from a busy restaurant to an echo-y meeting hall, this feature comes in handy in many circumstances.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss doesn’t occur across all wavelengths and frequencies uniformly. Maybe low frequency noise is hard to hear (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you are unable to hear so well, resulting in a much more effective hearing aid.
  • Health monitoring: Contemporary hearing aids are also able to incorporate sophisticated health tracking software into their options. if you have a fall, for example, some hearing aids can recognize that. There are others that can inform you about your fitness goals such as how many steps that you have taken.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids are typically constructed out of advanced materials, so they feel more comfortable. While these new materials allow 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 only the inside–but also the outside–of hearing aids have advanced over the years.

The older style hearing aids no longer represent what hearing aids are, just as rotary phones no longer capture what long distance communication looks like. Hearing aids have changed a lot. And we should be excited because they’re much better than they were.

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