The history of hearing aids can be attributed to technological developments in the military and the invention of the telephone. From the use of electronics to amplify and purify sound to miniaturisation of the transistor radio, scientists have developed the hearing aid using these technologies to alleviate hearing loss.
The ear trumpet
We have come a long way from the very first listening device made to alleviate hearing loss in the 17th century. Back in those olden days, the hard of hearing would use what was called an ear trumpet. This was at first, quite a large trumpet shaped device where the small end was placed in the ear and the large trumpet end was directed at the source of sound to increase amplification.
Ear trumpets were fashioned out of bone, wood or metals such as silver or tin. They progressed from being primitive and crude to more fashionable designs that could be discreetly hidden amongst clothing and later they became small enough to hide amongst the hair while being held on by a head band.
Electronic hearing aids
Very soon after William Bell invented the telephone in the 1870’s and the invention of the microphone, Miller Reese Hutchison developed the Akouphone which became the first electric hearing aid. The technology of the telephone used electronics to amplify weaker sounds, control distortion and frequency. These hearing aids were much like the telephone with a microphone (sized to suit the level of hearing loss) and a receiver that you held up to your ear. These hearing aids hit the market in 1913 and were inconvenient and clumsy to use, plus they were expensive so not many people could afford them.
In the history of hearing aids its interesting to note that a Siemens was the first company to manufacture electronic hearing aids, a company that is still actively researching and making hearing aids today.
By the 1920’s, the vacuum tube hearing aid was patented and called the Vactuphone. It used a telephone to transmit sounds via an electrical signal to the receiver which was held to the ear. These were also cumbersome devices weighing in at just over three kilos.
With technological advances and miniaturisation in the military we saw the development of smaller more pocket-sized hearing aids come onto the market by the late 1930’s.
Transistor hearing aids
During WWII, the transistor was invented and with it the technology replaced the vacuum tubes in hearing aids. They were much smaller and needed less battery power with less distortion. These hearing aids did not overheat like their predecessor and were far smaller and wearable. They did not need a separate battery pack and could contain the batteries inside the device to power itself. Unfortunately, these devices were subject to damp and would only last a few weeks, which in turn led to a silicon transistor hearing aid being produced.
Digital hearing aids
In the 1970’s, the invention of the microprocessor further miniaturised the hearing aid and multi-channel amplitude compression allowed for separating sounds into bands and making adjustments so the wearer could hear more frequencies. This was the birth of digital hearing aids and in 1989 the first behind the ear hearing aid was launched.
Today, the hearing aid is super smart and via smart technology, can connect wirelessly with your phone, TV and stereo. They are so discreet you can barely see them. There are models that fit inside the ear canal. They are programmable to suit your hearing loss type and your lifestyle needs and can recognise the various environments you regularly move through, making calculations and adjusting automatically to help you hear better. Better still the latest hearing aids have fall detection and will notify a loved one or carer if you take a tumble and can’t get to the phone.
Hearing Aids come in all shapes and sizes and with varying levels of smart technology. They have improved the life of so many hearing impaired, even the profoundly deaf. But precaution needs to be taken when searching for devices. Hearing aids are not cheap and if you are shopping for a bargain without the guidance of a good audiologist you may find yourself spending money on a dud device that is uncomfortable and totally unsuited to your hearing needs.
The Hearing Cub
The Hearing Club is a local and independent hearing service provider. Our aim is to assist the hearing impaired to achieve the greatest enjoyment from life.
We are a family business accredited to provide services through the Commonwealth Office of Hearing Services system, WorkSafe and experienced in excellence providing services to private clients in the area. We are proud of our history and commitment to the local community improving lifestyle through better hearing.
To make an appointment with one of our professional staff please call 1800 627 728. To find a clinic near you, contact us online today.