When was the last time you utilized that old ear trumpet? No? You don’t have one? Because that technology is hundreds of years old. Okay, I suppose that makes sense. Ear trumpets are a bit… antiquated.
The fundamental shape of the modern hearing aid was developed in the 1950s. And that old style hearing aid tends to be the one we generally remember and think of. The problem is that a hearing aid made in the 1950s is just about as antiquated as a hearing trumpet. We need to really advance our thinking if we want to get an accurate picture of how much better modern hearing aids are.
Hearing Aids, Then And Now
In order to better understand just how sophisticated hearing aids have become, it’s helpful to have some perspective about where they began. As far back as the 1500s, you can find some form of hearing aid (though, there’s no evidence that these wooden, ear-shaped artifacts actually worked).
The first partially effective hearing assistance device was probably the ear trumpet. This device was shaped like, well, a long horn. The wide end faced the world and the narrow end was put into your ear. These, um, devices were not exactly high tech, but they did provide 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 developed. In order to work properly, they made use of large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a rather rudimentary design. But a hearing aid that could be conveniently worn and hidden began with these devices. Admittedly, modern hearing aids might share the same form and function as those early 1950s designs–but their performance goes light years beyond what was possible 70 years ago.
Modern Features of Hearing Aids
Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it bluntly. And they keep making improvements. In several significant ways, modern hearing aids have been taking advantage of the digital technology of the later twentieth century. Power is the first and most essential way. Modern hearing aids can pack considerably more power into a much smaller space than their earlier forerunners.
And with that greater power comes a large number of sophisticated developments:
- Speech recognition: The ultimate goal, for most hearing aid users, is to assist in communication. Some hearing aids, then, have built-in speech recognition software designed to isolate and boost voices primarily–which can be very useful in a wide range of situations, from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y meeting room.
- Selective amplification: Hearing loss does not occur across all frequencies and wavelengths equally. Perhaps low frequency sound is hard to hear (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids are a lot more effective because they can boost only the frequencies you have a hard time hearing.
- Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are made of high tech materials. While these new materials enable hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also allows 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 advanced over the years.
- Health monitoring: Advanced Health monitoring software is also incorporated into modern hearing aid options. For example, some hearing aids can recognize whether you’ve had a fall. Other functions can count your steps or give you exercise encouragement.
- Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids are now able to connect to other devices using wireless Bluetooth technology. This can be extremely useful on a daily basis. For example, hearing aids in the past had a hard time dealing with phone calls because users would experience considerable (and sometimes unpleasant) feedback. With modern hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone using 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 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 much better than they used to be.