Hearing aids are small electronic devices that increase the volume of sounds so those with hearing loss can continue to listen, communicate and function better. Finding the best hearing aids depends on your level of hearing, condition and various other factors.
The History of Hearing Aids
Hearing aids have three essential components: the speaker, microphone and amplifier. To work, the microphone picks up sound waves that it converts into electrical signals and sends to the amplifier. The amplifier increases the signal's power and sends the sound through a speaker and into the ear.
Early Hearing Aid Technology
In the 17th century, people used an ear trumpet. Ear trumpets were tubular devices that funneled soundwaves into the ear. People manufactured ear trumpets using animal horns, snail shells, wood and sometimes sheet metal or silver. A specialist would create a personalized conical instrument for each particular client.
In 1898, the invention of Aukophone introduced the first portable hearing aid. It used a carbon transmitter and an electric current to turn a weak signal into a stronger one. The early hearing aid had a separate amplifier, headphones, battery and microphone. Very few people had access to the Akouphone because it was clunky, hard to use and came with a high price point. These devices hardly compare to the best hearing aids nowadays.
Vacuum Tube Hearing Aids
A Naval engineer named Earl Hanson patented a vacuum-tube hearing aid called the Vactuphone in 1920. The Vactuphone worked by using a telephone transmitter to convert speech to electric signals. Next, the electric signals then amplified through the receiver.
Competition led to the development of smaller hearing aids throughout the 1930s. The smaller hearing aids began to gain popularity after 1936 when the technology became wearable.
Transistor Hearing Aids
In 1948, the transistor hearing aids replaced vacuum tubes. People preferred transistor hearing aids because they did not require as much battery power and produced less distortion. Likewise, the hearing aids created less heat. Unfortunately, a person's body heat could cause the hearing aid to stop functioning. The devices would die within a few weeks because of dampness and heat. Developers created a coating to protect the silicon transistor.
Microprocessor Hearing Aids
In 1970, manufacturers created the microprocessor hearing aid, a multi-channel amplitude compression device that separated audio signals into frequency bands. The microprocessor could selectively amplify some sounds more while amplifying others less.
Digital Hearing Aids
In 1987, digital hearing aids hit the market but did not have a lot of commercial success. Instead, their introduction launched a race to create viable digital hearing aids that could have commercial success. The developments in hearing aid technology began to move at a rapid pace. The digital hearing aids included hybrid instruments, filters, amplifiers and limiters that wearers could control digitally.
High Tech Hearing Aids
Hearing aids have become more widespread in the 21st century. Most devices now have new versions of hearing amplifiers and a wide range of hearing device options with various capacities. People can control the ambient noise and isolate sounds with modern hearing aids.
Medical Consultation Before Obtaining Hearing Aids
Before you can seek the best hearing aids for your condition, you may require a medical consultation. According to the FDA, not everyone requires a medical evaluation before buying hearing aids. However, there are certain instances where you need to have a medical exam prior.
For instance, if you have blood, fluid or pus coming out of your ears, fluctuating and sudden hearing loss, ear wax buildup, pain, discomfort, tinnitus or dizziness, you should consult a medical professional ahead of time.
6 Qualities of the Best Hearing Aids
The ideal hearing aid for your condition depends on your preferences and the features offered in different models. There are a few essential features, however, that you should not go without.
Background Noise Limitation
Hearing aids have to be able to distinguish between different types of noise. Most digital hearing aids have background and feedback suppression. A microprocessor distinguishes between low-frequency sounds, such as background noise, and high-frequency sounds. Additionally, microprocessors can intensify speech and suppress other noises.
A feature of many of the best hearing aids is programmability. You can program an ideal hearing aid to complement your hearing loss. If your hearing aid enhances all sounds uniformly, you will not be able to hear speech much better than you did before. Programmability allows you to customize your hearing aids at home or in public places such as restaurants.
Some hearing aids have directionality. These aids contain two or more microphones; each is installed at a specific distance from one another within the device. The contrast in the time it takes sound to reach the microphone determines how the aid will react to the sound. The hearing aids can target specific sound sources.
Telecoils are copper coils that manufacturers integrate into the hearing aid. Telecoils allow users to talk on the phone without worrying about feedback. The aids connect to a hearing loop system. For example, if you go to a movie theater with a hearing loop system, you will hear the sound directly in your hearing aid.
There are various styles and sizes to suit a person's preference. If you prefer a small hearing aid, you may have luck with the Audien Atom Pro. Some hearing aids go behind the ear, whereas others go into the ear canal. When looking at hearing aid styles, try to balance ease of use, functionality, appearance and cost.
Some hearing aids are compatible with your smart device. You can connect your hearing aid wirelessly to your smartphone, for instance. The sound travels directly into your ear if you want to stream music or telephone calls. You may also be able to use your phone as a remote control for your hearing aid.
Finding the Best Hearing Aids for Your Situation
The best hearing aids depend on your level of hearing loss and your preferences. To find hearing aids that fit your lifestyle, visit us at Audien Hearing. We offer high-quality hearing aid solutions, including the Atom Pro.