Have you utilized your ear trumpet lately? No? You don’t use one? Because that technology is centuries old. Okay, I suppose that makes sense. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.
The basic shape of the modern hearing aid was developed in the 1950s. And that old model hearing aid is generally the one we remember and envision. The trouble is that a hearing aid built in the 1950s is just about as antiquated as an ear trumpet. We need to really expand our thinking if we want to understand how much better modern hearing aids are.
The History of Hearing Aids
To be able to better recognize just how sophisticated hearing aids have become, it’s useful to have some context about where they began. If we follow the history back far enough, you can most likely 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 partially effective hearing assistance apparatus. This device appeared to be a long trumpet. You would place the narrow end in your ear so that the wide end faced out. Today, you wouldn’t consider this device high tech, but back then they actually give some help.
When electricity was introduced, hearing aids experienced a major innovation. The hearing aid as we now know it was essentially created in the 1950s. In order to work properly, they used 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. Of course, modern hearing aids may share the same shape and mission as those early 1950s designs–but their performance goes light years beyond what was possible 70 years ago.
Hearing Aid’s Modern Features
Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it plainly. And they’re constantly improving. In a few powerful ways, modern hearing aids have been using the digital technology of the later twentieth century. The first, and the most essential way, is straight forward: power. Earlier versions contained batteries which had less power in a bigger space than their current counterparts.
And a long list of sophisticated advances come with increased power:
- Speech recognition: The ultimate objective, for many hearing aid owners, is to enhance communication. Isolating and boosting voices, then, is a principal feature of the software of many hearing aids–which can be pretty helpful in a wide range of scenarios, from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y meeting room.
- Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are made of high tech materials. These new materials permit hearing aids to be lighter and more robust simultaneously. And by adding long-lasting, rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how not only the inside–but the outside–of hearing aids have improved over the years.
- Bluetooth connectivity: Contemporary hearing aids are now able to connect to all of your Bluetooth devices. You will utilize this function on a daily basis. For example, hearing aids in the past had a tough time dealing with telephone calls because users would hear significant (and sometimes uncomfortable) feedback. With contemporary hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. This applies to a wide range of other situations involving electronic devices. This means quick, feedback free connection to your TV, music, etc.
- Health monitoring: State-of-the-art Health tracking software is also included in modern hearing aid choices. For example, some hearing aids can detect whether you’ve had a fall. Other features can count your steps or give you exercise support.
- Selective amplification: Hearing loss normally manifests as loss of specific wavelengths and frequencies of sound. Perhaps you have a more difficult time hearing high-frequency sounds (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids can be programmed to amplify only those sounds that you are unable to hear so well, resulting in a much more effective hearing aid.
The old style hearing aids no longer represent what hearing aids are, in the same way as rotary phones no longer capture what long distance communication looks like. Hearing aids have changed a lot. And that’s a positive thing–because now they’re even better.