Have you used your ear trumpet lately? No? You don’t use one? Because that technology is hundreds of years 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 for some reason, that’s the hearing aid which has become identified in our collective consciousness. But thinking of 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 understand how much more advanced modern hearing aids are.
Hearing Aids, Then And Now
It’s worthwhile to have some context about where hearing aids began so that you can better comprehend how advanced they have become. If we trace the history back far enough, you can likely find some form of hearing assistance device as far back as the 1500s (whether any of them ever really helped you hear better is still up for debate).
The “ear trumpet” was most likely the first partially effective hearing assistance mechanism. This device appeared to be a long horn. The wide end pointed out and the narrow end was directed into your ear. These, um, devices weren’t really high tech, but they did offer some measurable assistance.
The real innovation came once electricity was invited to the party. In the 1950s the hearing aid that we are all familiar with was created. They were fairly basic, using transistors and big, antiquated batteries to effectively work. But a hearing aid that could be easily worn and hidden started with these devices. The hearing aids of the 1950s might have appeared similar to modern hearing aids but the technology and functionality is worlds apart.
Hearing Aid’s Modern Capabilities
Simply put, modern hearing aids are technological wonders. And they continue making improvements. In numerous significant ways, modern hearing aids have been using the digital technology of the later twentieth century. Power is the first and most important way. Earlier models had batteries which had less power in a larger space than their current counterparts.
And with that increased power comes a long list of innovative advances:
- Speech recognition: For lots of hearing aid owners, the ultimate goal of these devices is to assist in communication. Some hearing aids, then, have built-in speech recognition software created to separate and amplify voices primarily–which can be pretty useful in a wide range of scenarios, from a packed restaurant to an echo-y board room.
- Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids can now communicate with other devices using wireless Bluetooth technology. You will use this feature on a daily basis. Old style hearing aids, for example, would have annoying feedback when you would attempt to talk on the telephone. 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 situations involving electronic devices. Because there’s no feedback or interference, it’s easier to listen to music, watch TV–you name it.
- Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are constructed from advanced materials. While these new materials enable hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also allows them to be more robust. It’s easy to see how hearing aids have improved on the outside as well as the inside with the addition of long lasting and rechargeable batteries.
- Health monitoring: Modern hearing aids are also able to incorporate advanced health monitoring software into their settings. For instance, some hearing aids can recognize whether you’ve fallen. There are others that can inform you about your fitness goals like how many steps that you’ve taken.
- Selective amplification: Hearing loss usually occurs as loss of certain wavelengths and frequencies of sound. Perhaps you have a harder time hearing high-frequency sounds (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids are a lot more efficient because they will amplify only the frequencies you have a difficult time hearing.
The older style hearing aids no longer exemplify what hearing aids are, just as rotary phones no longer capture what long distance communication looks like. Hearing aids have changed a lot. And we should be excited because they’re much better than they were.