There are three sorts of individuals out there: people who find history to be amazingly fascinating, individuals who think history is horribly dull, and people who believe history is full of aliens.
Aliens aren’t responsible for the history of hearing aids. But the real story is probably pretty strange as well. Hearing loss is, after all, a human condition that has been here as long as we have. People have, consequently, been trying to discover new effective ways to deal with hearing loss since the dawn of our existence.
Being aware of the history of your hearing aids can give you a greater appreciation of how your own tiny, digital devices work, and why you should use them more frequently.
For thousands of years, people have been dealing with hearing loss
Evidence of hearing loss going back to the very beginning of human existence has been found by archaeologists. They can see signs of ear pathologies in fossil evidence. It’s kind of amazing! Civilizations such as the Egyptians and even older groups were reporting hearing loss for as long as writing has existed.
So, clearly, hearing loss is nothing new. And it’s likely always sort of sucked (especially when neglected). When you have neglected hearing loss, you will find it more difficult to communicate. Friends and loved ones may become more distant. In a more “hunter and gatherer” style of society, you might also lose your ability to detect danger (resulting in a shorter lifespan).
So for thousands of years, humans have had an incentive to figure out how to manage hearing loss. And they’ve even managed some great successes!
The progression of hearing aid like devices
It’s significant to note that we don’t have an exhaustive history of the hearing aid. Not all evidence of hearing devices is documented through time. Even if we don’t have a written record of precisely what ancient people did to relieve hearing loss, it’s very likely that they took steps in that direction.
But here’s what we do know about the recognized hearing aid timeline:
- 1200s: Animal Horns: Hollowed out animal horns served 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 lessen the effects of hearing loss. The idea was that the funnel-shape of a hollowed out animal bone would help conduct sound more directly into the ear. There was no amplification involved, so these animal horns weren’t functioning on the same level as a modern hearing aid (obviously). But they most likely help focus the sound you want to hear and control distracting outside sounds.
- 1600s: Ear Trumpet: For hundreds of years, the “cone shaped” hearing apparatus was the prevalent form. And that continued into the seventeenth century, when “ear trumpets” became a popular means of treating hearing loss. These devices looked, well, like trumpets. The small end would go in your ear. They came in a large number of shapes and materials. At first, they were large and cumbersome. Eventually, more portable versions that could be carried around with you were created. Again, these were never very effective, because they didn’t amplify sounds. But they were able to funnel sounds into your ear, and direct sound more intentionally toward you.
- 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 begin amplifying and make hearing aids a no-brainer for effectiveness, right? Well, not so much. In the early 1900s these devices were too big to be realistic or 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 energized those old, incredibly bulky television sets was actually state-of-the-art, at that time! These vacuum tubes allowed (relatively) smaller, wearable hearing aids to be manufactured, the size of a backpack. Slightly clearer sound and better amplification were also possible.
- 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 the result of the invention of the transistor, which meant you required less technological bulk to accomplish the same effect. As a result of this advancement, people could conveniently take hearing aids with them wherever they went, it was a significant benefit!
- 1970s and 1980s: Hearing Aids Get Smaller: As technologies advanced, hearing aids became smaller. The 1970s and 80s, in particular, saw a substantial decrease in the size of hearing aids. This made them easier to use, and more popular. Unfortunately, the actual amplification was still pretty rudimentary. They just amplified all of the sound they picked up. It was better than nothing, but still not quite what most individuals needed to effectively treat their hearing loss.
- 1982: Digital Hearing Aid: While not fully adopted 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 providing custom amplification and better sound quality. Treatment for hearing loss has become more successful since the evolution of digital hearing aid.
- 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. Wireless, Bluetooth connectivity came first. These days, contemporary hearing aids will help you hear better than ever by utilizing machine learning algorithms. Hearing aids are more convenient and more efficient as a result of this integration with other technologies.
History’s most advanced hearing aids
Mankind has been working on and bettering hearing loss for centuries, if not longer.
Contemporary hearing aids can attain that better than at any time in the history of humanity. These little pieces of technology are more prevalent than they ever have been because they’re so beneficial. A wide range of hearing problems can be addressed.
So hearing aids can help you if you want to have a stronger connection with your friends, loved ones, or the clerk at your local pharmacy. (See? No aliens involved.)
Learn how hearing aids can improve your life. Call us for an appointment.
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