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 seems logical. Ear trumpets are a bit… archaic.
The basic shape of the modern hearing aid was developed in the 1950s. And somehow, that’s the hearing aid which has become identified in our collective consciousness. But visualizing 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 recognize how much better modern hearing aids are.
The History of Hearing Aids
So that you can better recognize just how advanced hearing aids have become, it’s useful to have some context about where they started out. As far back as the 1500s, you can find some form of hearing aid (whether any of them ever really helped you hear better is probably unlikely).
The first partially helpful hearing assistance apparatus was probably the ear trumpet. This device appeared to be an elongated trumpet. You would put the small end inside your ear so that the wide end pointed out. These, er, devices weren’t exactly high tech, but they did provide some measurable assistance.
The real innovation came when electricity was invited to the party. 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 quite basic design. But these gadgets represent the beginning of a hearing aid that could be easily worn and concealed. Admittedly, modern hearing aids might share the same shape and function as those early 1950s models–but their performance goes light years beyond what was possible 7 decades ago.
Hearing Aid’s Modern Capabilities
Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it bluntly. And they’re constantly developing. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been taking advantage of digital technologies in several powerful ways. Power is the first and most important way. Modern hearing aids can store substantially more power into a much smaller area than their earlier forerunners.
And a long list of innovative advances come with greater power:
- Construction: Modern hearing aids are typically constructed out of advanced 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 with the addition of 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.
- Speech recognition: For countless hearing aid owners, the supreme goal of these devices is to assist in communication. Some hearing aids, then, have built-in speech recognition software created to isolate and boost voices primarily–from a busy restaurant to an echo-y board room, this feature is useful in many situations.
- Selective amplification: Hearing loss doesn’t occur through all wavelengths and frequencies equally. Maybe you have a harder time hearing high-frequency noises (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you are unable to hear very well, creating a much more effective hearing aid.
- Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids can now connect to other devices using wireless Bluetooth technology. You will use this feature every day. For example, hearing aids used to have a tough time dealing with telephone calls because users would experience considerable (and sometimes unpleasant) feedback. With modern hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. This is true for a wide range of other scenarios involving electronic devices. This means quick, feedback free connection to your TV, music, etc.
- Health monitoring: Modern hearing aids are also capable of incorporating innovative health tracking software into their settings. For example, some hearing aids can detect whether you’ve had a fall. There are other functions that can keep you informed about your fitness goals such as how many steps that you have taken.
Just like rotary phones no longer represent 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.