• Many people who are hard of hearing use amplification devices or hearing aids. The technology of hearing aids has made remarkable advances over the past quarter-century.

    The most notable changes are changes in signal processing and size. A hearing aid in the 1960s amplified noise and conversation equally, so in a noisy situation, it was rarely helpful. The sound quality was somewhat like the sound of a cheap transistor radio --tinny and unnatural.

    Twenty years later, signal processing had advanced to the stage where hearing aids at least did not make a noisy situation worse, and they were a great deal of help amplifying conversation in a quiet atmosphere.

    In the 1800s, people who were deaf and hard of hearing used a variety of non-electrical trumpets and horns to amplify sounds. They worked basically as a kind of megaphone in reverse.

    Alexander Graham Bell was working on a hearing aid when he invented the telephone. That technology was applied to hearing aids, but they were still very large and cumbersome. In the 1940s, vacuum tubes brought the size down some, but it took the invention of transistors in the 1960s for hearing aids to shrink down to the sizes in use today. Now, hearing aids can be worn above the ear, in the outer ear or even tucked away completely in the ear canal.

    Today’s technology has introduced many progressive new optins of communication including video, text and social media in accessible formats. 

    Cochlear implants may be a choice for some people who are deaf. This system requires surgery to implant a device which is then connected to a receiver outside the ear. Unlike a hearing aid, they do not amplify sound. Instead, a device like a microphone is surgically implanted behind the ear to capture sound, process it and send it to the brain as electrical impulses. It does not create hearing but gives people with hearing loss an approximate understanding of speech and environmental noises.