|History of the Hearing Aid|
History of the Hearing Aid
Hearing aids have a colorful history, from the trumpets to the first electronic hearing aids, aids that were too bulky to be portable, then on to the invention of transistors to the digital age. Some of the latest inventions of hearing aids include the use of adaptive dynamic range optimization technology in new lines of hearing aids. Hearing aid technology used today is far different from what hearing aids used 100, 50, or even five years ago. Everyday new technology is available for hearing loss.
The earliest hearing aids worked without electricity, while the earliest electric models were simply too large to be portable. Today, digital hearing aids are discrete, lightweight, and have the capability to be adjusted for different environments and to amplify sound without distortion. And the future holds many exciting improvements to hearing aid technology as a whole. But it's important to review the history of hearing aids in order to understand just where the industry is headed.
The Early History of Hearing Aids:
Lets take a look at the history of hearing aid two hundred years ago, when the hearing aid came in the form of ear trumpet. The ear trumpet consisted of a large horn-shaped devices used to direct sound into the ear of a hearing-impaired person and provide very basic sound amplification without electricity. This form of hearing aid was large and awkward, although some models could be worn on the head attached to a harness. This type of hearing aid performed one basic function, sound amplification, they could also improve the signal-to-noise ratio in a noisy environment, but they weren't able to do much else. In fact, cupping your hand behind your ear gives a similar amplification. Hearing aid technology has certainly come a long way since this time.
Two important milestones in the history of hearing aids changed the technology of the hearing aid, the advent of electricity and Alexander Graham Bell's work on the telephone. This
Hearing aid technology incorporated the use of vacuum tubes in the early 1920's. This would allow a much more efficient method for amplifying sound. But still the early electrical hearing aids were still far too unwieldy to be carried around easily, many many were as large and as heavy as a desk radio. More importantly the development of the smaller more effective hearing aid was soon to be invented.
Smaller Batteries, Smaller Hearing Aids:
Digital hearing aid technology was in common use by the mid 1990's allowing for more precise shaping of the sound into the wearer's ear. With digital circuitry sound could be amplified or dampened as required by the hearing aid user. By this time programs were created that could be utilized depending upon the user’s location or needs. In turn allowing more amplification for quiet settings, or specific amplification of certain frequencies in loud situations so the user could clearly hear speaking voices, even when surrounded by other noises. Digital products also took advantage of compression technology, eliminating an annoying side effect that had plagued users throughout the history of hearing aids basically the distortion of very loud sounds.
Today's Hearing Aid Technology:
we are still shaping the history of hearing aids, and hearing aid technology is constantly being updated. New technologies are being introduced allowing the user to be directly involved with the fitting of his or her hearing aids. Instead of basic prescriptions based on a user's audiogram, testing can be performed, analogous to the optical testing done in an ophthalmologist's office, to hone the hearing aid's settings for the specific user. Now instead of a hearing aid user listening to a narrow band of sounds, making loudness judgments to filling out a questionnaire the hearing aid users are now able to modify their hearing aid settings to suit their needs.
A system of computer instructions now enable the computer to deal with ambiguities1that are now built into some of current day hearing aids. This now allows us to customized settings to ensure the hearing aid output is constantly optimized to the listener's needs for every sound in every environment. Clinical studies show this new generation of hearing aid technology can provide consistently improved intelligibility of speech in quiet and noisy environments, more comfort for the user in the presence of loud sounds, greater audibility of soft sounds, and improved sound quality over conventional amplification schemes.
This form of hearing aid technology is not offered by all manufacturers, therefore it may be worth looking into it can greatly improve a user's hearing when using the aid. Most hearing aid technicians keep up to date on all new technology and new hearing aids available. Newer hearing aids are also being offered with limited ear occlusion, making them nearly invisible and in some cases allowing the user's hearing to be further improved.
A new hearing aid technology known as adaptive dynamic range optimization is starting to become available from some manufacturers. This is one of the most significant changes in the recent history of hearing aids, as it is a major update from traditional compression circuits most often used with digital hearing aids. Adaptive dynamic range optimization allows the hearing aid to make constant adjustments to its algorithms using fuzzy logic, delivering to the user a higher level of sound quality and eliminating louder nuisance sounds more readily. This new hearing aid technology will also eliminate echoing.
The Future of Hearing Aid Technology:
The future of hearing aids will bring extremely exciting new options for all hearing aid users. Transducers are getting smaller at the same time circuitry is shrinking rapidly. Meaning that smaller increasingly more powerful hearing aids will be forth coming. The hearing aid user will find themselves more in control of their own hearing as well as becoming more involved with the fitting and adjusting of their hearing aids. Hearing aids have come a long way from the ear trumpet, but hearing aid technology is continuing to evolve with time, and there's still a long way to go.