When was the last time you used that old ear trumpet? No? You don’t use one? Because that technology is centuries old. Okay, I suppose that makes sense. Ear trumpets are a bit… archaic.
The modern(ish) hearing aid, as it happens, was developed in the 1950s–the basic shape, that is. And that old model hearing aid tends to be the one we generally remember and think of. But visualizing a hearing aid in this way isn’t accurate because those old hearing aids are antiquated technology. We need to really expand our thinking if we want to understand how much more advanced modern hearing aids are.
The History of Hearing Aids
It’s helpful to have some context about where hearing aids started in order to better perceive how advanced they have become. As far back as the 1500s, it’s possible to find some type of hearing aid (whether any of them ever really helped you hear better is probably unlikely).
The “ear trumpet” was perhaps the first somewhat useful hearing assistance apparatus. This device appeared to be an elongated horn. You would put the narrow end in your ear so that the wide end faced out. These, er, devices weren’t exactly high tech, but they did offer some measurable help.
When electricity was introduced, hearing aids had a real innovation. In the 1950s the hearing aid as we know it was developed. They were quite rudimentary, using transistors and large, primitive batteries to get the job done. But a hearing aid that could be conveniently worn and hidden began with these devices. Admittedly, modern hearing aids may share the same form and function as those early 1950s models–but their performance goes light years beyond what was conceivable 7 decades ago.
Modern Capabilities of Hearing Aids
Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it bluntly. And they’re constantly improving. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been using digital technologies in a number of powerful ways. The first, and the most important way, is simple: power. Modern hearing aids can pack significantly more power into a much smaller area than their earlier predecessors.
And a number of cutting-edge advances come with increased power:
- Bluetooth connectivity: Contemporary hearing aids can now connect to all of your Bluetooth devices. This can be extremely helpful on a daily basis. Old style hearing aids, for example, would have aggravating feedback when you would attempt to talk on the telephone. When you connect to your phone using Bluetooth, the transition is simple and communicating is easy. You will also use Bluetooth functions to engage in a wide range of other electronic activities. This means simple, feedback free connection to your TV, music, etc.
- Speech recognition: The ultimate objective, for most hearing aid owners, is to facilitate communication. Many hearing aids, then, have built-in speech recognition software created to isolate and amplify voices mainly–which can be very helpful in a wide variety of situations, from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y board room.
- Selective amplification: Hearing loss does not occur across all wavelengths and frequencies uniformly. Perhaps you have a harder time hearing high-frequency sounds (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids are much more effective because they can boost only the frequencies you have a difficult time hearing.
- Health monitoring: State-of-the-art Health tracking software is also incorporated into modern hearing aid options. For example, some hearing aids can detect whether you’ve had a fall. Other functions can count your steps or give you exercise support.
- Construction: Modern hearing aids are normally constructed out of high tech materials, so they feel more comfortable. While these new materials enable hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also allows them to be more robust. And by adding long-lasting, rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how not just the inside–but the outside–of hearing aids have improved over the years.
Just like rotary phones no longer exemplify long-distance communication, older hearing aids no longer represent what these devices are. Hearing aids have changed a lot. And that’s a positive thing–because now they’re even better.