Where would we be today without the humble microchip? With each new generation becoming more tech-savvy than the last, it’s not uncommon to take our everyday devices for granted. We have become so accustomed to a phone resting in our palm that we have forgotten it's essentially a handheld supercomputer.
We forget the days when cellphones felt like a brick in your hand. We forget the days when hearing aids looked like a Walkman attached to your hip. That's why we want to salute the microchip in all its glory!
In the hearing community, the dawn of the microchip was monumental. Prior to this, the size of hearing aids was the stand-alone biggest reason keeping people from finding a hearing solution. Just like the world's first super-computer, the IBM 7030 Stretch
, took up a whopping 2000 square feet, so too did early hearing aids take up a lot of real estate on your ear.
The Birth of the Microchip
The microchip's inception gave hearing aid manufacturers greater design freedom. It also gave consumers greater hearing aid functionalities - in a much smaller size - a superior solution in a smaller package. Soon newer models began to enter into the market, and hearing aid developments helped 'chip' away at the negative stigma associated with wearing the device.
This invention, born in 1947, was the brainchild of Robert Noyce and Jack Kilby - who put their heads together and started the personal computer revolution. Noyce and Kilby held multiple patents for microchips, semiconductors, transistors, and other electronic circuitry. They were the men who gave Silicon Valley its name. By being able to do more with less, their work allowed other manufacturers the ability to compile more elegant solutions for the hard-of-hearing.
The ability to implement microchips into wearable technology radically improved sound processing. It gave hearing aid wearers more convenient features while limiting maximum power and dampening feedback squeal
. The technology was tricked out even further, with the use of directional microphones (which previously were too big to be put on the ear) that made for crisper, clearer intelligibility.
>> Directional hearing devices allow users to capture sound coming from various directions. Click to learn more about directional hearing
Now, in the computer age, convenient features like noise reduction algorithms promise to optimize the hearing aid device even further! Dr. Bob Morely, an Associate Professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering stated, “As transistors got smaller and we could put more on a chip with the same battery drain, we were able to add sophisticated active feedback suppression and noise reduction algorithms.”
We're thankful for the technology. We salute the inventors that helped bring the microchip about. Their work has allowed pioneers in the field of research and development to create discreet and rechargeable hearing aids.