There are three types of individuals out there: those who find history to be amazingly fascinating, people who think history is horribly boring, and people who think history is full of aliens.
Aliens aren’t behind the history of hearing aids. But it’s most likely a lot stranger than you may believe. Hearing loss is, after all, a human condition that has been here as long as we have. People have, as a result, been attempting to come up with new effective ways to deal with hearing loss since the beginning of our existence.
An appreciation for your amazing little digital devices, their features, and why it’s important to use them, can be gained by knowing some history about them.
Hearing loss has been around for thousands of years
Evidence of hearing loss dating 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 rather amazing! Civilizations such as 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 wasn’t any better then than it is now (this is especially true because it was more challenging to deal with then). When you have untreated hearing loss, you will find it harder to communicate. You might become alienated from friends and family members. When humans were a little more primitive, neglected hearing loss could result in a shorter lifespan as they might not have been able to detect danger.
So for thousands of years, humans have had an incentive to learn how to manage hearing loss. And they’ve even managed some very good successes!
The progression of hearing aid like devices
The first thing to appreciate is that our history of hearing aids isn’t complete. Throughout time, some of the advancements in hearing aid technology were simply not documented. Even if we don’t have a published record of exactly what ancient people did to alleviate 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 first proto-hearing aids. Evidence of this form of hearing device goes back to the 1200s, and it’s likely people used them to help lessen the impacts of hearing loss. Sound would be more easily carried to the ear with the funnel shaped horn. There was no amplification involved, so these animal horns weren’t working on the same level as a modern hearing aid (obviously). But they probably help focus the sound you want to hear and limit distracting outside sounds.
- 1600s: Ear Trumpet: The “cone shaped” hearing aid was the prevalent format for centuries. These “ear trumpets” continued to be a popular way to treat hearing loss throughout the seventeenth century. These devices looked, well, like trumpets. The narrow end would go inside your ear. They came in a large number of shapes and materials. At first, they were large and burdensome. Eventually, creative individuals created smaller, more collapsible versions of these ear trumpets, so people could take them on the go. Once again, these were never super effective, because they couldn’t amplify sounds. But they could funnel sounds into your ear, and direct sound more intentionally toward you.
- 1900s: Electronic Amplification: Alright, here we go: the development of the carbon microphone (okay, the carbon microphone was really developed in the late 1800s, but it wasn’t really employed for hearing aids until later). This should start amplifying and make hearing aids a shoo-in for effectiveness, right? Well, not so much. In the early 1900s, these devices were big, and not really wearable. The technology would need quite a bit of refinement before it would be very useful.
- 1920s: Wearable Hearing Devices: Hello, vacuum tubes! The same technology that energized those old, incredibly bulky television sets was actually state-of-the-art, at that time! Relatively smaller hearing aids that were about the size of a backpack were now feasible. Slightly clearer sound and improved amplification were also possible.
- 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 the result of the development of the transistor, which meant you needed less technological bulk to accomplish the same effect. Because of this advancement, people could conveniently bring hearing aids with them wherever they went, it was a huge advantage!
- 1970s and 1980s: Hearing Aids Get Smaller: Hearing aids became smaller as technology advanced. Hearing aids got considerably smaller in the 1970s and 80s. As a result, they became more popular and easier to use. 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 needed to effectively treat their hearing loss.
- 1982: Digital Hearing Aid: The first digital hearing aid was unveiled in 1982, though it was not commercially available until 1996. Digital hearing aids changed the hearing aid landscape by making everything smaller and more discrete while offering custom amplification and clearer sound quality. With the advent of digital hearing aids, treatment for hearing loss became much more effective and successful.
- 2000s (and Beyond): Hearing Aids Get Wireless and Smart: An increasing amount of innovative technology has been put into these digital hearing aids since they were invented. Wireless, Bluetooth technology came first. And now, modern hearing aids will use machine learning algorithms to help you hear better than ever. Hearing aids are more convenient and more effective as a result of this integration with other technologies.
The best hearing aids in history
Humanity has been working on and improving hearing loss for centuries, if not longer.
Modern hearing aids can accomplish that better than at any time in the history of humanity. These little pieces of technology are more popular than they ever have been because they’re so beneficial. They can help with a larger number of hearing issues.
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.)
Discover how hearing aids can improve your life. Contact us for an appointment.