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Eastside Audiology - Issaquah, WA Eastside Audiology - Issaquah, WA

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

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

The basic shape of the modern hearing aid was designed in the 1950s. And for some reason, that’s the hearing aid which has become identified in our collective consciousness. But visualizing a hearing aid like this isn’t realistic because those old hearing aids are antiquated technology. To understand just how much better modern hearing aids are, we have to unshackle our imaginations.

The History of Hearing Aids

So that you can better recognize just how advanced hearing aids have become, it’s helpful to have some perspective about where they began. If we follow the history back far enough, you can probably find some form of hearing assistance device as far back as the 1500s (whether any of them ever actually helped you improve your hearing is probably unlikely).

The first somewhat effective hearing assistance apparatus was most likely the ear trumpet. This construct was shaped like, well, a long trumpet. The wide end pointed out and the narrow end was oriented inside your ear. These, um, devices weren’t really high tech, but they did provide some measurable help.

The real innovation came when someone invited electricity to the party. In the 1950s the hearing aid as we know it was created. They were fairly rudimentary, using transistors and large, antiquated batteries to get the job done. But these devices signify the birth of a hearing aid that could easily be worn and hidden. Admittedly, modern hearing aids may share the same shape and mission as those early 1950s designs–but their functionality goes light years beyond what was possible 70 years ago.

Hearing Aid’s Modern Features

Put simply, modern hearing aids are technological wonders. And they keep making improvements. Since the late twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been making use of digital technologies in some powerful ways. Power is the first and most important way. Modern hearing aids can store substantially more power into a much smaller space than their earlier predecessors.

And a number of cutting-edge advances come with greater power:

  • Speech recognition: For many hearing aid owners, the biggest goal of these devices is to assist in 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 meeting hall, this feature is useful in many situations.
  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss does not occur through all frequencies and wavelengths uniformly. Perhaps low frequency sound gets lost (or vice versa). Modern hearing aids can be programmed to boost only those sounds that you can’t hear so well, producing a much more effective hearing aid.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Modern hearing aids are now able to connect to all of your Bluetooth devices. You will utilize this feature on a daily basis. Old style hearing aids, for example, would have aggravating feedback when you would attempt to talk on the phone. When you connect to your cellphone using Bluetooth, the transition is simple and communication is easy. This applies to a wide variety of other scenarios involving electronic devices. This means simple, feedback free connection to your music, TV, etc.
  • Health monitoring: Contemporary hearing aids are also able to incorporate sophisticated health monitoring software into their settings. For example, some hearing aids can detect whether you’ve had a fall. Other functions can count your steps or give you exercise support.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids are normally made of high tech materials, so they feel more comfortable. These new materials permit hearing aids to be lighter and more heavy-duty at the same time. And by adding long-lasting, rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how not just the inside–but the outside–of hearing aids have improved over the years.

Just like rotary phones no longer represent long-distance communication, older hearing aids no longer represent what these devices are. Hearing aids have changed a lot. And that’s a good thing–because now they’re even better.

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