For as long as there have been people, there has been hearing loss. But it wasn’t until the 17th century that the first hearing assistive device was invented: an “ear trumpet” that amplified sounds so people could hear more clearly.
Hearing aids, as we recognize them today, were not invented until the turn of the 20th century. It was 1898 when Miller Reese Hutchison created the first electric hearing device using technology based on the telephone, another recent invention of the time. From there, steady improvements were made throughout the decades in both the appearance and performance of hearing assistive devices.
Today’s advanced hearing aid technology is based on many of these early developments. However, they are also more compact, more convenient, and more powerful than ever before – and that’s amazing news for anyone struggling with hearing loss.
So, what do modern-day hearing aids have to offer? I’ve put together a quick guide to advancements in hearing aid technology, including the cutting-edge features that are a mainstay of today’s devices.
Hearing Aid Technology Advances
There are four basic components to any hearing aid: a microphone, a receiver, a processor, and a power source. Advanced hearing aid options build on these basics, improving existing technology and working in additional features to improve both the utility of the device and the quality of life of the user.
Some innovative “Hearing Aid Advances” include:
- Artificial intelligence so hearing aids can automatically adjust to the user’s needs and environments without requiring any adjustment by the user.
- Bluetooth connectivity to allow wireless audio streaming directly from devices such as cell phones and tablets
- Rechargeability for added convenience as well as an alternative to small, easily lost batteries
- Directional microphones to focus on the speech of the person you want to hear and tune out background noise for clearer communication
- Feedback management to prevent any whistling from a hearing aid
- App connectivity so that users can easily control volume & program settings right from their phone and request programming adjustments from their provider without needing an appointment
What all of these impressive advances in hearing aid technology have in common is that all of them are relatively new technologies developed in the late 20th & early 21st centuries. So, while the early history of hearing devices was largely focused on establishing the basic function of amplifying sound, today’s hearing aid technology is more driven toward improving the quality of the sounds you hear and linking your hearing aid technology to your other daily devices for added usability and features.
Clearing Up Hearing Aid Misconceptions
As a Doctor of Audiology, I get asked all sorts of questions about hearing aids, from “What is the most technologically advanced hearing aid?” to “How do I choose a hearing aid?” Of course, these are extremely loaded questions that cannot be answered the same way for different people.
They also come with a lot of outdated hearing aid advice and misconceptions. Let’s clear up some of the most common ones to help you or a loved one in your journey to choosing the best hearing aid for you.
Misconception #1: Hearing Aids Are Large & Bulky
We’ve come a long way from the ear trumpets of the 17th century. Significant advances in the miniaturization of electronic components have allowed for hearing aids to be a fraction of the size compared to hearing aids from just a few years ago. Today’s advanced hearing aids are incredibly discreet and ergonomic, so much so that you might even forget you’re wearing one.
Misconception #2: All Hearing Aids Do is Amplify Sound
While early hearing aids primarily focused on amplifying all sounds, modern hearing aids do a lot more than that. Among the advances in hearing aids have been remarkable improvements in digital signal processing, programming customization, Speech enhancement, & noise reduction features, making sound not just louder but also more clear.
Misconception #3: Most Hearing Aids Are Pretty Much the Same
There is an array of hearing aid options available, with wide variations in the style of hearing aid, its features, & capabilities. This is why having an excellent hearing care professional who is familiar with multiple brands of hearing aids is so critical. They will be able to identify which hearing aids are best for you based on your specific wants and needs.
Misconception #4: Hearing Aids Are Very Expensive
Contrary to what some may assume, there is a plethora of reasonably priced advanced hearing aids, which means there’s no reason to break the bank when acquiring them. Work with a certified provider to compare not just hearing aid features but prices as well so that you can get what you need at a price that fits your budget.
Misconception #5: Hearing Aids are One-Size-Fits-All
Despite many hearing aids looking very similar, each device must be custom fit & programmed to the hearing loss of an individual user. In many cases, laser 3D scans can be taken of your ears to build custom products designed perfectly for you and your unique ears.
Find the Hearing Aid That’s Right for You
Advances in technology have made it possible to get a hearing aid that is uniquely suited to each individual, with added features that enhance your hearing and user experience. That means that no matter what your needs are, there is a hearing aid out there for you.
As with any treatment for hearing loss, early intervention can make all the difference. Explore our resources on HearingLoss.com to learn more about your options, and take our online guided hearing experience to get a baseline understanding of what your hearing needs might be. We are also here to help connect you with a certified provider who can work with you every step of the way to find an advanced hearing aid that is best for you.