Have you used your ear trumpet lately? No? You don’t have one? Because that technology is centuries old. Okay, I suppose that makes sense. Ear trumpets are a bit… archaic.
The modern(ish) hearing aid, as it happens, was engineered during the 1950s–the basic design, that is. And somehow, that’s the hearing aid which has become identified in our collective consciousness. But visualizing a hearing aid in this way isn’t accurate because those old hearing aids are out-dated technology. We need to really advance our thinking if we want to recognize how much better 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 context about where they started. As far back as the 1500s, you can find some form of hearing aid (though, there’s no proof that these wooden, ear-shaped items were actually effective).
The “ear trumpet” was perhaps the first marginally useful hearing assistance approach. This construct was shaped like, well, a long trumpet. You would put the narrow end in your ear so that the wide end pointed out. These, er, devices were not really high tech, but they did provide some measurable help.
When electricity was introduced, hearing aids had a real innovation. In the 1950s the hearing aid that we are all familiar with was developed. In order to perform their function, they made use of large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a quite basic design. But a hearing aid that could be easily worn and hidden started with these devices. Of course, modern hearing aids might share the same shape and mission as those early 1950s designs–but their functionality goes far beyond what was conceivable 70 years ago.
Modern Capabilities of Hearing Aids
Put simply, modern hearing aids are technological masterpieces. And they’re constantly improving. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been making use of digital technologies in several profound ways. Power is the first and most crucial way. Modern hearing aids can pack significantly more power into a much smaller area than their earlier forerunners.
And with that increased power comes a large number of innovative developments:
- Speech recognition: The biggest goal, for many hearing aid owners, is to assist in communication. Some hearing aids, then, have built-in speech recognition software developed to separate and boost voices mainly–which can be pretty handy in a wide variety of scenarios, from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y meeting room.
- Health monitoring: Modern hearing aids are also capable of incorporating innovative health monitoring software into their settings. if you have a fall, for instance, some hearing aids can detect that. There are other features that can notify you about your fitness goals such as how many steps that you’ve taken.
- Selective amplification: Hearing loss commonly manifests as loss of certain frequencies and wavelengths of sound. Perhaps low frequency noise gets lost (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids are much more effective because they are able to amplify only the frequencies you have a difficult time hearing.
- Construction: Modern hearing aids are usually made of high tech materials, so they feel more comfortable. These new materials enable hearing aids to be lighter and more robust at the same time. And by adding 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.
- Bluetooth connectivity: Contemporary hearing aids are now able to communicate with all of your Bluetooth devices. You will use this feature every day. 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. You will also use Bluetooth connectivity to participate in a wide range of other electronic activities. Because there isn’t any feedback or interference, it’s easier to watch TV, listen to music–you name it.
Just like rotary phones no longer exemplify long-distance communication, older hearing aids no longer represent what these devices are. Hearing aids aren’t what they used to be. And we should be excited because they’re a lot better than they used to be.