Hearing Aids Have Advanced a Lot Since They Were First Invented

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 centuries old. Okay, I suppose that makes sense. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.

The modern(ish) hearing aid, it turns out, was developed during the 1950s–the basic shape, that is. And that old style hearing aid is generally the one we remember and think of. But thinking of a hearing aid in this way isn’t accurate because those old hearing aids are antiquated technology. To comprehend just how much better modern hearing aids are, we have to unleash our imaginations.

The History of Hearing Aids

It’s worthwhile to have some perspective about where hearing aids began so that you can better comprehend how sophisticated they have become. 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 (though, there’s no proof that these wooden, ear-shaped artifacts were actually effective).

The first moderately effective hearing assistance device was most likely the ear trumpet. This construct was shaped like, well, a long horn. You would put the small end inside your ear so that the wide end faced out. Today, you wouldn’t think of this device as high tech, but back then they actually provided some help.

Once electricity was introduced, hearing aids had a major innovation. The hearing aid as we now know it was really created in the 1950s. In order to perform their function, they relied on large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a rather rudimentary design. But these gadgets signify the birth of a hearing aid that could easily be worn and hidden. Admittedly, modern hearing aids may share the same shape and function as those early 1950s designs–but their performance goes far beyond what was possible 7 decades ago.

Modern Features of Hearing Aids

Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it plainly. And they continue making improvements. Since the later years of the twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been utilizing digital technologies in a few significant 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 with that greater power comes a large number of sophisticated advances:

  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids are now able to communicate with other devices via wireless Bluetooth technology. You will use this function every day. Older hearing aids, for instance, would have annoying feedback when you would attempt to talk on the phone. With modern hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. You will also use Bluetooth functions to take part in a wide variety of other electronic activities. Because there’s no interference or feedback, it’s easier to listen to music, watch TV–you name it.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss doesn’t manifest across all frequencies and wavelengths uniformly. Perhaps you have a harder 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, creating a much more effective hearing aid.
  • Speech recognition: For lots of hearing aid users, the biggest objective of these devices is to enable communication. Many hearing aids, then, have built-in speech recognition software designed to isolate and boost voices mainly–from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y board room, this feature is useful in many situations.
  • Health monitoring: Advanced Health tracking software is also incorporated into modern hearing aid options. For example, some hearing aids can detect when you’ve fallen. There are others that can keep you informed about your fitness goals like how many steps that you’ve taken.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids are usually constructed out of high tech materials, so they feel more comfortable. While these new materials allow hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also enables 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 as rotary phones no longer represent long-distance communication, older hearing aids no longer represent what these devices are. Hearing aids aren’t what they once were. And that’s a good thing–because now they’re even better.

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