Have you used your ear trumpet lately? No? You don’t have one? Because that technology is centuries 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. The trouble is that a hearing aid made in the 1950s is just about as antiquated as an ear trumpet. We need to really advance our thinking if we want to get an accurate picture of how much more advanced modern hearing aids are.
The History of Hearing Aids
In order to better recognize just how advanced hearing aids have become, it’s useful to have some perspective about where they started. As far back as the 1500s, you can come across some type of hearing aid (whether any of them ever really helped you improve your hearing is still up for debate).
The first somewhat helpful hearing assistance device was probably the ear trumpet. This device appeared to be an elongated trumpet. The wide end pointed out and the narrow end was oriented into your ear. Nowadays, you wouldn’t think of this device as high tech, but back then they actually provided some assistance.
When electricity was introduced, hearing aids experienced a real revolution. The hearing aid that we are familiar with was really developed 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 easily worn and hidden started with these devices. Admittedly, modern hearing aids may share the same shape and function as those early 1950s models–but their performance goes light years beyond what was conceivable 70 years ago.
Modern Capabilities of Hearing Aids
Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it plainly. And they continue getting better. In numerous profound ways, modern hearing aids have been using the digital technology of the later part of the twentieth century. Power is the first and most essential way. Modern hearing aids can pack significantly more power into a much smaller area than their earlier forerunners.
And with that improved power comes a long list of innovative developments:
- Health monitoring: Contemporary hearing aids are also able to incorporate innovative health tracking software into their options. For example, some hearing aids can detect when you’ve fallen. There are other features that can notify you about your fitness goals like how many steps that you’ve taken.
- Construction: Modern hearing aids are normally made of high tech materials, so they feel more comfortable. While these new materials enable hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also enables them to be more heavy-duty. 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.
- Selective amplification: Hearing loss does not manifest through all frequencies and wavelengths equally. Perhaps low frequency sound gets lost (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you can’t hear very well, resulting in a much more effective hearing aid.
- Speech recognition: For lots of hearing aid users, the biggest goal of these devices is to facilitate 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 packed restaurant to an echo-y board room.
- Bluetooth connectivity: Contemporary hearing aids are now able to communicate with all of your Bluetooth devices. You will use this function every day. For instance, hearing aids in the past had a tough time with telephone calls because users would experience considerable (and sometimes unpleasant) feedback. With modern hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. This is true for a wide variety of other scenarios regarding electronic devices. Because there isn’t any interference or feedback, it’s easier to watch TV, listen to music–you name it.
The old style hearing aids no longer represent what hearing aids are, just as rotary phones no longer illustrate what long distance communication looks like. Hearing aids aren’t what they used to be. And we should be excited because they’re substantially better than they were.