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How Hearing Aids Helped Lead the Way in Wearable Technology

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 2017’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

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.

The market responded, and big, bulky, clunky machinery was soon replaced with lighter, friendlier, and more user-friendly solutions. All sorts of products were positively affected, including household appliances, cars, and hearing aids.

The microchip and other technologies brought about during the post-WWII mechanical phase known as ‘miniaturization’ made larger devices tiny. Today’s most incredible wearable devices are possible because of this technology.

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 beauty, too! 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 effective and attractive, too. In fact, digital hearing aids these days integrate technology like the ability to stream music from smartphones with an advanced design that makes them nearly invisible.

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

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