Have you utilized your ear trumpet lately? No? You don’t use one? Because that technology is hundreds of years old. Okay, I suppose that seems logical. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.
The modern(ish) hearing aid, it turns out, was developed during the 1950s–the basic design, that is. And somehow, that’s the hearing aid which has become established in our collective consciousness. The problem 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 recognize how much better modern hearing aids are.
The History of Hearing Aids
It’s worthwhile to have some perspective about where hearing aids began to be able to better perceive 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 (though, there’s no proof that these wooden, ear-shaped items actually worked).
The “ear trumpet” was most likely the first marginally effective hearing assistance approach. This device was shaped like, well, a long horn. You would place the narrow end into your ear so that the wide end faced out. At present, you wouldn’t consider this device high tech, but back then they actually give some assistance.
The real revolution came once electricity was invited to the party. In the 1950s the hearing aid that we are all familiar with was created. They were rather basic, using transistors and large, primitive batteries to get the job done. But a hearing aid that could be easily worn and hidden started with these devices. The hearing aids of the 1950s may have looked similar to modern hearing aids but the technology and capability is worlds apart.
Modern Features of Hearing Aids
Simply put, modern hearing aids are technological wonders. And they’re always developing. In a few profound ways, modern hearing aids have been utilizing the digital technology of the later part of the twentieth century. Power is the first and most important way. Earlier models contained batteries which had less power in a larger space than their present counterparts.
And with that improved power comes a large number of sophisticated developments:
- Bluetooth connectivity: Modern hearing aids are now able to communicate with all of your Bluetooth devices. You will utilize this function every day. For instance, hearing aids in the past had a tough time with phone calls because users would experience significant (and sometimes unpleasant) feedback. With contemporary 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 isn’t any interference or feedback, it’s easier to listen to music, watch TV–you name it.
- Speech recognition: The biggest objective, for many hearing aid users, is to assist in communication. Some hearing aids, then, have built-in speech recognition software developed to separate and boost voices primarily–which can be pretty helpful in a wide range of scenarios, from a packed restaurant to an echo-y board room.
- Construction: Modern hearing aids are typically constructed out of advanced materials, so they feel more comfortable. These new materials permit hearing aids to be lighter and more heavy-duty simultaneously. It’s easy to see how hearing aids have improved on the outside as well as the inside by adding long lasting and rechargeable batteries.
- Selective amplification: Hearing loss does not manifest through all frequencies and wavelengths uniformly. Perhaps low frequency sound is hard to hear (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you can’t hear so well, resulting in a much more efficient hearing aid.
- Health monitoring: Contemporary hearing aids are also capable of incorporating sophisticated health tracking software into their options. For example, some hearing aids can recognize whether you’ve fallen. Other features can count your steps or give you exercise support.
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 we should be excited because they’re substantially better than they were.