Woman wearing hearing aids climbing hill with family and laughing at a joke.

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 modern(ish) hearing aid, it turns out, was introduced in the 1950s–the basic shape, that is. And for some reason, that’s the hearing aid which has become established 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 get an accurate picture of how how much more advanced modern hearing aids are.

The History of Hearing Aids

In order to better comprehend just how advanced hearing aids have become, it’s useful to have some perspective about where they started out. If we follow the history back far enough, you can most likely find some form of hearing assistance device as far back as the 1500s (whether any of them ever actually helped you improve your hearing is still up for debate).

The “ear trumpet” was most likely the first partially effective hearing assistance mechanism. This device was shaped like, well, a long horn. The wide end faced the world and the small end was directed inside your ear. At present, you wouldn’t consider this device high tech, but back then they actually provided some assistance.

When electricity was introduced, hearing aids had a major revolution. In the 1950s the hearing aid as we know it was developed. In order to work properly, they made use of large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a rather basic design. But these devices signify the beginning of a hearing aid that could be easily worn and concealed. Admittedly, modern hearing aids may share the same shape and function as those early 1950s models–but their functionality goes far beyond what was possible 7 decades ago.

Modern Features of Hearing Aids

Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it bluntly. And they’re constantly developing. In numerous powerful ways, modern hearing aids have been making use of the digital technology of the later twentieth century. The first, and the most essential way, is simple: power. Modern hearing aids can store substantially more power into a much smaller space than their earlier predecessors.

And a long list of innovative developments come with increased power:

  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are made of advanced materials. While these new materials allow 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 only the inside–but the outside–of hearing aids have improved over the years.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss doesn’t occur across all frequencies and wavelengths uniformly. Perhaps you have a harder time hearing high-frequency noises (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids are a lot more effective because they are able to boost only the frequencies you have a difficult time hearing.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids are now able to communicate with other devices via wireless Bluetooth technology. You will utilize this feature on a daily basis. Old style hearing aids, for example, would have aggravating feedback when you would attempt to talk on the telephone. When you connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth, the transition is smooth and communication is effortless. This is true for a wide variety of other situations involving electronic devices. Because there isn’t any interference or feedback, it’s easier to watch TV, listen to music–you name it.
  • Speech recognition: The biggest objective, for most hearing aid users, is to enhance communication. Some hearing aids, then, have integrated speech recognition software created to isolate and boost voices mainly–from a packed restaurant to an echo-y board room, this feature is useful in many circumstances.
  • Health monitoring: Modern hearing aids are also capable of incorporating advanced health tracking software into their options. if you have a fall, for instance, some hearing aids can detect that. There are others that can keep you informed about your fitness goals like how many steps that you have taken.

The older style hearing aids no longer exemplify what hearing aids are, in the same way as rotary phones no longer capture what long distance communication looks like. Hearing aids aren’t what they once were. And we should be excited because they’re much better than they were.

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