There are three kinds of individuals in the world: individuals who find history to be amazingly fascinating, people who think history is horribly dull, and people who believe history is full of aliens.
Aliens aren’t behind the history of hearing aids. But the true story is probably pretty weird too. After all, hearing loss isn’t exactly a new thing; it’s been around as long as we have. People have, as a result, been attempting to discover 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.
Hearing loss has been around for thousands of years
Evidence of hearing loss going back to the very start of human existence has been found by archaeologists. They can see indicators of ear pathologies in fossil evidence. It’s kind of amazing! Civilizations such as the Egyptians and even older groups were writing about hearing loss for as long as writing has existed.
Obviously, hearing loss isn’t new. And it wasn’t any better then than it is now (this is especially true because it was more challenging to deal with then). Communication will be a lot harder if you have neglected hearing loss. You might become alienated from friends and loved ones. When humans were a bit more primitive, neglected hearing loss could result in a shorter lifespan as they may not have been capable of detecting danger.
So going back thousands of years, humans have had an incentive to learn how to manage hearing loss. And they didn’t totally 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. Not all evidence of hearing devices is documented through time. It’s very likely that ancient humans did something to alleviate hearing loss, even if there’s no immediate evidence of what that was.
But here’s what we do know about the recognized hearing aid timeline:
- 1200s: Animal Horns: Hollowed out animal horns were used as some of the earliest proto-hearing aids. People probably used this device to amplify sound and reduce the impact of hearing loss and evidence of this sort of device dates back to the 1200s. The concept was that the funnel-shape of a hollowed out animal bone would help move sound more directly into the ear. Clearly, this device isn’t working like a modern hearing aid because there’s no amplification. But it’s likely they provided some reasonable ability to reduce distracting sounds.
- 1600s: Ear Trumpet: The “cone shaped” hearing aid was the prominent format for hundreds of years. And that persisted into the seventeenth century, when “ear trumpets” became a popular means of managing hearing loss. They were known as “ear trumpets” because, well, that’s what they looked like. The small end would go inside your ear. You could get them made out of a variety of materials (and with a surprising range of shapes). At first, they were large and cumbersome. Eventually, clever individuals created smaller, more collapsible models of these ear trumpets, so people could bring them on the go. Once again, these were never super effective, because they couldn’t amplify sounds. But they could channel sounds into your ear, and direct sound more intentionally toward you.
- 1900s: Electronic Amplification: Alright, here we go: the invention of the carbon microphone (okay, the carbon microphone was actually developed in the late 1800s, but it wasn’t really employed for hearing aids until later). This should begin amplifying and make hearing aids a no-brainer for effectiveness, right? Well, not so much. As of the early 1900s these devices were too large to be realistic or wearable. The core principle was there, but the technology wasn’t fine-tuned enough to be truly useful.
- 1920s: Wearable Hearing Devices: Hello, vacuum tubes! The same technology that powered those old, incredibly bulky television sets was actually cutting edge, at that time! These vacuum tubes allowed (relatively) smaller, wearable hearing aids to be made, the size of a backpack. Slightly clearer sound and improved amplification were also feasible.
- 1940s: Pocket-Sized Hearing Aids: It’s a giant leap from a backpack sized hearing aid to a purse or pocket sized one. This was due to the development of the transistor, which meant you required less technological bulk to accomplish the same impact. It became a substantial advantage, as a result of this technology, to bring your hearing aid with you wherever you went.
- 1970s and 1980s: Hearing Aids Get Smaller: As technologies advanced, hearing aids got smaller. Hearing aids got significantly smaller in the 1970s and 80s. Consequently, they became more prominent and easier to use. Sadly, the actual amplification was still rather basic. These hearing aids basically just made everything louder. Most individuals need something a little more fine tuned to address their hearing loss, but it was still better than nothing.
- 1982: Digital Hearing Aid: While not fully adopted and commercially introduced until 1996, 1982 was the year of the first digital hearing aid. Digital hearing aids were a game changer, they offered improved quality of sound, more ways to customize amplification, and the ability to package everything into a smaller case. Treatment for hearing loss has become more effective since the development 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 stack more and more technology into these little devices. This started out with Bluetooth wireless connectivity. And now, modern hearing aids will use machine learning algorithms to help you hear better than ever. This integration with other technologies makes hearing aids more efficient, and more convenient!
History’s most advanced hearing aids
For hundreds of years or more, we have been working on relieving hearing loss.
Contemporary hearing aids can attain that better than at any time in the history of humanity. And because they’re so beneficial, these little devices are also more popular than ever. They can help with a wider range of hearing problems.
So hearing aids can help you if you want to develop a better connection with your friends, loved ones, or the clerk at your local pharmacy. (See? No aliens involved.)
Give us a call and schedule an appointment to learn what hearing aids can do for you!
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