McDonald Hearing Services - Grand Rapids, MI

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

Have you used your ear trumpet lately? 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 engineered in the 1950s–the basic design, that is. And somehow, that’s the hearing aid which has become established in our collective consciousness. But visualizing a hearing aid in this way isn’t accurate because those old hearing aids are out-dated technology. To understand just how much better modern hearing aids are, we have to unshackle our imaginations.

Hearing Aids, Then And Now

To be able to better recognize just how sophisticated hearing aids have become, it’s helpful to have some context about where they started. As far back as the 1500s, it’s possible to find some type of hearing aid (though, there’s no proof that these wooden, ear-shaped items were actually effective).

The “ear trumpet” was probably the first partially useful hearing assistance approach. This device was shaped like, well, a long trumpet. The wide end pointed out and the narrow end was oriented into your ear. At present, you wouldn’t consider this device high tech, but back then they actually give some help.

When electricity was introduced, hearing aids had a significant revolution. The hearing aid as we now know it was really developed in the 1950s. They were quite rudimentary, using transistors and large, primitive batteries to get the job done. But these devices represent the beginning of a hearing aid that could easily be worn and concealed. Admittedly, modern hearing aids might share the same shape and mission as those early 1950s designs–but their performance goes far beyond what was possible 70 years ago.

Hearing Aid’s Modern Features

Simply put, modern hearing aids are technological wonders. And they keep getting better. Since the later years of the twentieth century, modern hearing aids have been benefiting from digital technologies in a few significant ways. The first, and the most crucial way, is straight forward: power. Earlier versions contained batteries that had less power in a larger space than their current counterparts.

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

  • Selective amplification: Hearing loss normally occurs as loss of specific frequencies and wavelengths of sound. Perhaps 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 so well, producing a much more efficient hearing aid.
  • Speech recognition: For many hearing aid owners, the biggest goal of these devices is to facilitate communication. Separating and boosting voices, then, is a principal feature of the software of many hearing aids–which can be pretty helpful in a wide range of situations, from a crowded restaurant to an echo-y board room.
  • Health monitoring: Modern hearing aids are also able to incorporate advanced health monitoring software into their settings. For instance, some hearing aids can recognize whether you’ve had a fall. There are other features that can notify you about your fitness goals such as how many steps that you’ve taken.
  • Construction: Modern hearing aids feel more comfortable because they are constructed from advanced materials. While these new materials enable hearing aids to be more comfortable, it also enables them to be more heavy-duty. And by adding long-lasting, rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how not only the inside–but also the outside–of hearing aids have improved over the years.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Your hearing aids can now communicate with other devices using wireless Bluetooth technology. This can be extremely useful on a daily basis. Older hearing aids, for example, would have irritating feedback when you would attempt to talk on the telephone. With contemporary hearing aids, you can just connect to your cellphone via Bluetooth connectivity and never miss a call. This applies to a wide variety of other scenarios regarding electronic devices. Because there isn’t any feedback or interference, it’s easier to watch TV, listen to music–you name it.

The older style hearing aids no longer exemplify what hearing aids are, just as rotary phones no longer capture what long distance communication looks like. Hearing aids have changed a lot. And that’s a good thing–because now they’re even better.

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