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Hearing aids helped lead the way in wearable technology

How Hearing Aids Helped Lead the Way in Wearable Technology

Published 09-08-2019
Last Updated 09-08-2019

Technology is now fully integrated into the majority of our daily lives at this point. Whether it be a digital watch, our cell phones, smart glasses, the original path for this growing trend in wearable tech was pioneered by none other than the humble hearing aid.
Wearable technology has made amazing strides in the last decade. You’re probably familiar with the most popular wearable devices, like the Apple Watch and Fitbit, but Forbes Magazine's recent article about 2018's best wearable tech even includes devices like a bicycle helmet that tracks your mileage to earphones that monitor your heart rate while playing your favorite music.

And what made all this tiny, wearable technology possible? One tiny thing is behind it all: the microchip. Microchips, or integrated circuits, control nearly every electronic device out there, and the smaller they become, the smaller the technology that they power can become, too. Today’s chips contain millions of interconnected transistors on a piece of silicon the size of a fingernail.

There is one wearable that has been around longer than any of these gadgets, and it’s one you are probably already familiar with—the hearing aid. Arguably the first wearable technology, listening devices did not start off as the portable and high-tech gadgets they are today. Hearing aids during the early 1900’s were as large as a boombox – and severely limited hard-of-hearing individuals from exiting their homes and interacting with the outside world. Early aids were heavy, bulky - and anything but discreet. But then something beautiful happened.

Miniaturization Makes Devices User-Friendly

Miniaturization was a trend that took place after World War II; it served as the intellectual driver for techies, innovators, and inventors to start creating things on a smaller scale.

It wasn’t about ‘who could create the biggest gun of mass destruction’ – humanity had gotten sick of that – but ‘who could create the most life-enhancing product’ - and get that to the American consumer.

Nanotechnology is built on the belief that devices should be small, yet packed with useful technology.
Would you rather have (1) a bulky hearing aid with some features, or (2) a discreet hearing aid with a great deal of features?

Engineers set themselves to a higher standard following the wanton destruction of WWII. The microchip and other technologies brought during the ‘miniaturization’ phase made larger devices tiny. Moore's Law, engine downsizing and similar such thinking made it possible for big and bulky machinery to be replaced by lighter, more user-friendly solutions. 

The market responded and all sorts of products were positively affected, including household appliances, cars, and hearing aids. 

Today the challenge to manufacturers is to create functional and aesthetically pleasing devices. After all - it’s not just size that matters in wearable tech; it’s convenience and beauty too! 

Today, consumers are starting to see smaller gadgets with even better technological capacity under the hood. Wearable fitness devices that track your steps each day are showing up in the form of pretty silver and gold necklaces, and fitness tracker watches are being designed to look like regular high-end fashion wrist watches.

What do these trends mean for hearing aid wearers? It means that hearing aid wearers can expect their technology to be both discreet and powerful. Today, digital hearing aids contain a variety of neat features that make them effective outdoors, at cocktail parties, and in complex listening environments. Digital hearing aids are able to integrate with smart-technology and give wearers the ability to stream music and audiobooks directly into their ears. Some models are rechargeable overnight and run without batteries. Others come with A.I. and geo-location-based algorithms that tailor hearing aid listening programs to the environment one is in. 

The world of wearables is making huge advances—and the world’s first wearable, the hearing aid, is along for the ride.