It’s no secret that hearing aids utilize the latest in technology. What’s really interesting is how we’ve come from ear trumpets in the 17th century to digital hearing aids now. Today, millions of Americans utilizing hearing aids every day to hear more clearly in their daily lives, it’s no wonder the history has evolved the way it has. Now we have hearing aids in countless shapes, sizes, and even colors. Compared with the devices of yesteryear which weighed several pounds, today’s hearing aids only weigh a few ounces, providing an unmatched versatility. They offer the user lots more advantages, including the ability to connect to Bluetooth and filter out distracting background noise. Here’s an interesting quick history of hearing aids and just how much they’ve advanced.
The First Versions
Ear trumpets were large, cumbersome devices that could only amplify sound within the immediate environment. Just think of a trumpet and you’ll get a good mental picture of what these resembled. The ear trumpet was invented back in the 17th century, which were beneficial only to those who suffered from a partial hearing impairment. As the 18th century approached, they went through even more advancements. As such, several versions were created for the very wealthy, such as the Reynolds Trumpet. This was personally made for the famous painter Joshua Reynolds.
Then Came Phones for Transmission of Speech
The devices of the 17th and 18th centuries offered only limited amplification qualities. Thomas Edison was inspired by this invention and came up with the carbon transmitter for the telephone in 1878. This was designed to boost the basics of the telephone as well as the electrical signal to improve hearing. When the 19th century came around, electrical technologies emerged spurred on by the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. This invention was a catalyst for advancement leading to electrical transmission of speech.
Vacuum Tubes Were Impractical
Vacuum tube-based devices gave not only better amplification but also better frequency. However, they were quite large and not very practical. They got smaller as the years wore on, though, until they resembled a small box. Vacuum tubes, put out by Western Electric Co., came next in New York City in 1920. Manufactures built upon the technology that came from Lee De Forest’s finding of the three-component tube years earlier. The inconvenience of it all still wasn’t very helpful, plus the comfort level was pretty low.
Devices Worn Primarily on the Ear
It wasn’t till the late 1930s that hearing aids that could be worn on the ear with relative comfort got popular. These devices were made by a Chicago electronics manufacturer, featuring a thin wire connected to an earpiece and receiver. However, there was also a battery pack which attached to the user’s leg which posed obvious imitations. More compact models emerged during World War II for more reliable service to the user thanks to the prevalence of printed circuit boards.
Behind-the-ear models, invented in 1964 by Zenith Radio, featured digital signal-processing chips. Today, most — about 90 percent — of all hearing aids are digital in nature. Before this were hybrid analog-digital models and then fully digital models by 1996. By the year 2000, programmable hearing aids were on the scene that gave users increased flexibility, customization and comfort.
One can see the modern advancements made by the blend of technology and science.