Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

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

When was the last time you utilized that old ear trumpet? No? You don’t use one? Because that technology is centuries old. Okay, I suppose that seems logical. Ear trumpets are a bit… archaic.

The modern(ish) hearing aid, as it happens, was introduced during the 1950s–the basic shape, that is. And somehow, that’s the hearing aid which has become identified in our collective consciousness. The trouble is that a hearing aid made in the 1950s is just about as antiquated as a hearing trumpet. We need to really expand our thinking if we want to get an accurate picture of how much better modern hearing aids are.

The History of Hearing Aids

So that you can better recognize just how sophisticated hearing aids have become, it’s helpful to have some context about where they started out. As far back as the 1500s, you can come across some type of hearing aid (though, there’s no confirmation that these wooden, ear-shaped artifacts were actually effective).

The first somewhat successful hearing assistance apparatus was most likely the ear trumpet. This device looked like an elongated trumpet. You would put the narrow end in your ear so that the wide end faced out. These, um, devices were not exactly high tech, but they did offer some measurable assistance.

When electricity was introduced, hearing aids experienced a significant revolution. In the 1950s the hearing aid that we are all familiar with was developed. In order to perform their function, they relied on large old fashioned style batteries and transistors in a quite rudimentary design. But a hearing aid that could be easily worn and hidden began with these devices. Of course, modern hearing aids may share the same shape and function as those early 1950s designs–but their functionality goes far beyond what was conceivable 7 decades ago.

Modern Capabilities of Hearing Aids

Modern hearing aids are a technological masterpieces, to put it plainly. And they continue getting better. In a number of significant ways, modern hearing aids have been making use of the digital technology of the later twentieth century. The first, and the most important way, is straight forward: power. Earlier versions had batteries that had less power in a bigger space than their present counterparts.

And a number of sophisticated developments come with increased power:

  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss does not occur through all wavelengths and frequencies uniformly. Maybe low frequency sound is hard to hear (or vice versa). Contemporary hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you are unable to hear very well, producing a much more effective hearing aid.
  • Health monitoring: State-of-the-art Health monitoring software is also included in modern hearing aid options. if you have a fall, for instance, some hearing aids can recognize that. Other functions can count your steps or give you exercise encouragement.
  • Speech recognition: For countless hearing aid users, the supreme objective of these devices is to enable communication. Isolating and boosting voices, then, is a principal feature of the software of many hearing aids–from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y board room, this feature is useful in many situations.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are constructed from advanced materials. These new materials enable hearing aids to be lighter and more robust at the same time. 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.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Modern hearing aids are now able to communicate with all of your Bluetooth devices. This can be very useful on a daily basis. Older hearing aids, for example, would have aggravating feedback when you would try to talk on the phone. When you connect to your phone via Bluetooth, the transition is smooth and communication is easy. You will also use Bluetooth functions to participate in a wide range of other electronic activities. This means quick, feedback free connection to your TV, music, etc.

Just like rotary phones no longer represent long-distance communication, older hearing aids no longer represent what these devices are. Hearing aids aren’t what they once were. And we should be excited because they’re substantially better than they used to be.

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