Have you used 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 basic shape of the modern hearing aid was developed in the 1950s. And that old model hearing aid tends to be the one we generally remember and think of. The trouble is that a hearing aid made in the 1950s is just about as out-dated as a hearing trumpet. To understand just how much better modern hearing aids are, we have to unshackle our imaginations.
Hearing Aids, Then And Now
So that you can better understand just how advanced hearing aids have become, it’s useful to have some perspective about where they started out. As far back as the 1500s, you can find some type of hearing aid (though, there’s no evidence that these wooden, ear-shaped artifacts were actually effective).
The “ear trumpet” was probably the first marginally useful hearing assistance approach. This device looked like a long horn. You would put the small end into your ear so that the wide end pointed out. Nowadays, you wouldn’t think of this device as high tech, but back then they actually offer some assistance.
Once electricity was introduced, hearing aids went through 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 these devices signify the birth of a hearing aid that could easily be worn and hidden. Admittedly, modern hearing aids might share the same shape and function as those early 1950s models–but their performance goes far 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 making improvements. Since the later years of the twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been benefiting from digital technologies in some profound ways. The first, and the most essential way, is straight forward: power. Modern hearing aids can pack substantially more power into a much smaller space than their earlier forerunners.
And a number of cutting-edge advances come with increased power:
- Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids can now connect to other devices using wireless Bluetooth technology. You will utilize this function every day. Older hearing aids, for instance, would have irritating feedback when you would try to talk on the phone. When you connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth, the transition is smooth and communication is easy. You will also use Bluetooth connectivity to participate in a wide variety of other electronic activities. Because there isn’t any 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 made of high tech materials. 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 the outside–of hearing aids have advanced over the years.
- Selective amplification: Hearing loss usually manifests as loss of specific frequencies and wavelengths of sound. Perhaps low frequency noise is hard to hear (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids are much more efficient because they will amplify only the frequencies you have a difficult time hearing.
- Health monitoring: Modern hearing aids are also capable of incorporating sophisticated health tracking software into their options. For example, some hearing aids can detect when you’ve had a fall. Other functions can count your steps or give you exercise support.
- Speech recognition: For lots of hearing aid owners, the supreme goal of these devices is to enable communication. Isolating and amplifying voices, then, is a principal function of the software of many hearing aids–from a packed restaurant to an echo-y meeting hall, this feature comes in handy in many circumstances.
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 a lot better than they were.