10 Things You Didn’t Know About Hearing Aid Technology
Hearing aid technology has always been ahead of its time.
For those with hearing loss, it can be nearly impossible to overstate the benefits of wearing a hearing aid. But while the ability to restore damaged hearing to levels that meet—or sometimes exceed—natural hearing may seem like magic, the technology behind today’s most advanced hearing aids extends back as far as the 16th century with the development of ear trumpets, such as those used by Beethoven. These metal or wooden instruments, which resembled the ears of animals recognized for their exceptional hearing, trapped the sound directly in front of them and provided slight amplification into the ear.
Hearing aids as we know them today were first invented by Miller Reese Hutchison in 1898, and they’ve come an incredibly long way since. To help you evaluate how hearing aids can enhance the way you experience life, we’ve provided 10 examples of advances in hearing aid technology.
- Three inventors whose works advanced hearing aid technology considerably are Alexander Graham Bell, who was the son of a nearly deaf woman and married a deaf woman; Werner Von Siemens, who had his hearing damaged in the war and whose wife had hearing loss; and Thomas Edison, who also had hearing loss.
- The earliest hearing aids amplified weak sounds using an electric current and could barely fit inside a purse. These vacuum-tube devices were replaced by transistor hearing aids developed at Bell Labs in 1948, which were not nearly as large, muffled, or prone to overheating.
- Digital hearing aids, which are still used today, were first introduced by Bell Labs in the early 1960s. Before the development of the microprocessor in the 1970s, the earliest models required a computer mainframe that could fill up a small room!
- Hearing aids are programmable. They can memorize settings for multiple listening environments and can recalibrate—sometimes automatically—depending on sound input received from your surroundings.
- Many hearing aids can sync with wireless devices by using Bluetooth® technology, enabling you to receive direct auditory signals from your smartphone, television, and more.
- Some hearing aids can push extraneous noises into the background in crowded settings while amplifying and enhancing only the sound you want to hear, such as a conversation partner’s voice. In doing so, they can sometimes enable wearers to hear better in noisy situations than those without hearing loss.
- Many hearing aids contain tinnitus therapy functions that can provide significant relief for that annoying phantom buzzing, hissing, or ringing in your ear.
- Issues with whistling (feedback), echoes, and background noises have been dramatically minimized or eliminated altogether thanks to advances in digital and electronic technology. Sound quality and clarity have also dramatically improved, nearly eliminating the occlusion effect responsible for producing a plugged sensation in the ear.
- Apple® has recently partnered with major hearing aid manufacturers to develop a Made for iPhone® app that streams audio to your hearing aids directly from any iOS® device.
- Transmissions from induction loops installed in public settings like theaters, stadiums, public transit stations, and elsewhere can be picked up by hearing aids. By minimizing distortion and eliminating the strain required to hear over ambient noise, these systems enable wearers to hear announcements, guidance, and other information even better than people without hearing aids.
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