When it comes to history, there are three different types of individuals: those who are really interested and fascinated by history, those whose eyes gloss over and they start to fall asleep when history is discussed, and people who think that aliens are responsible for history.
Aliens aren’t responsible for the history of hearing aids. But it’s most likely a lot weirder than you may believe. After all, hearing loss isn’t exactly a new thing; it’s been around as long as humans have. People have, as a result, been trying to come up with new effective ways to manage hearing loss since the beginning of our existence.
Knowing the history of your hearing aids can give you a better appreciation of how your own little, digital devices work, and why you should wear them more often.
For thousands of years, people have been coping with hearing loss
Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of hearing loss that dates back to the dawn of mankind. Fossil evidence reveals signs of ear pathologies. It’s pretty cool! Civilizations like the Egyptians and even older groups were writing about hearing loss for as long as writing has existed.
So, clearly, hearing loss is nothing new. And it’s likely always sort of awful (particularly when neglected). Communication will be a lot more difficult if you have untreated hearing loss. You might become alienated from friends and family members. When humans were a little more primitive, neglected hearing loss could lead to a shorter lifespan as they may not have been able to detect danger.
So going back thousands of years, humans have had an incentive to figure out how to manage hearing loss. And they didn’t completely fail at this.
The progression of hearing aid like devices
It’s relevant to note that we don’t have an exhaustive history of the hearing aid. Throughout time, some of the advancements in hearing aid technology were simply not documented. It’s very likely that ancient humans did something to relieve hearing loss, even if there’s no direct evidence of what that was.
Still, here’s what the recognized “hearing aid timeline” looks like:
- 1200s: Animal Horns: Hollowed out animal horns were used as some of the earliest proto-hearing aids. Evidence of this type of hearing device dates back to the 1200s, and it’s likely people used them to help minimize the impacts of hearing loss. Sound would be more directly carried to the ear with the funnel shaped horn. There was no amplification involved, so these animal horns weren’t functioning on the same level as a modern hearing aid (obviously). But they probably help focus the sound you want to hear and limit distracting external sounds.
- 1600s: Ear Trumpet: The “cone shaped” hearing aid was the dominant configuration for centuries. And that continued into the seventeenth century, when “ear trumpets” became a desirable means of managing hearing loss. They were known as “ear trumpets” because, well, that’s what they looked like. The narrow end would go inside your ear. They came in a wide variety of shapes and materials. At first, they were large and burdensome. Eventually, clever individuals created smaller, more collapsible versions of these ear trumpets, so people could bring them on the go. Since there was still no amplification, they were roughly as efficient as the bigger versions. But they could bring sound more directly to your ear.
- 1900s: Electronic Amplification: In the late 1800s, the carbon microphone was invented but wouldn’t be employed as hearing aid technology until early the 1900s. This should start amplifying and make hearing aids a no-brainer for effectiveness, right? Well, not so much. In the early 1900s, these devices were huge, and not exactly wearable. The technology would need quite a bit of refinement before it would be very useful.
- 1920s: Wearable Hearing Devices: Then came vacuum tubes! The same technology that powered those old, extremely bulky television sets was actually cutting edge, at that time! Relatively smaller hearing aids that were about the size of a backpack were now possible. New technologies also permitted better amplification and somewhat clearer sound.
- 1940s: Pocket-Sized Hearing Aids: From fitting a hearing aid in a backpack to being able to put one in your purse or pocket, it’s a huge leap! This was because of the invention of the transistor, which meant you required less technological bulk to achieve the same impact. It became a huge advantage, as a result of this technology, to bring your hearing aid with you wherever you went.
- 1970s and 1980s: Hearing Aids Get Smaller: Hearing aids got smaller as technology advanced. Hearing aids got considerably smaller in the 1970s and 80s. This made them simpler to use, and more popular. The amplification, unfortunately, was still very basic. They just amplified all of the sound they picked up. It was better than nothing, but still not quite what most people required to successfully treat their hearing loss.
- 1982: Digital Hearing Aid: While not fully implemented and commercially available until 1996, 1982 was the year of the first digital hearing aid. Digital hearing aids changed the hearing aid landscape by making everything smaller and more discrete while offering personalized amplification and clearer sound quality. With the advent of digital hearing aids, treatment for hearing loss became much more potent and successful.
- 2000s (and Beyond): Hearing Aids Get Wireless and Smart: Since the introduction of the digital hearing aid, manufacturers have been able to cram more and more technology into these tiny devices. This began with Bluetooth wireless connectivity. And today, modern hearing aids will use machine learning algorithms to help you hear better than ever. Hearing aids are more convenient and more efficient as a result of this integration with other technologies.
The best hearing aids in history
For hundreds of years or more, humans have been working on managing hearing loss.
Better than at any other point in history, we are able to accomplish that with modern hearing aids. And because they’re so beneficial, these little devices are also more popular than ever. A wide variety of hearing problems can be addressed.
So if you want to get back to connecting with your children or your family or the cashier at the supermarket, hearing aids can help you do it. (See? No aliens involved.)
Contact us and schedule an appointment to learn what hearing aids can do for you!
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