When it comes to history, there are three different kinds of individuals: those who find history to be incredibly interesting, individuals who think history is terribly boring, and people who think history is full of aliens.
The history of hearing aids isn’t about aliens (sorry not sorry). 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, consequently, been trying to come up with new effective ways to manage hearing loss since the beginning of our existence.
An appreciation for your amazing little digital devices, their features, and why it’s important to wear them, can be gained by discovering a bit of history about them.
For thousands of years, people have been dealing with hearing loss
Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of hearing loss that goes back to the dawn of mankind. They can detect indicators of ear pathologies in fossil evidence. It’s pretty cool! 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’s likely always sort of sucked (particularly when left untreated). When you have untreated hearing loss, you will find it more difficult to communicate. You might lose touch with friends and family members. In a more “hunter and gatherer” type of society, you might also lose your ability to detect danger (resulting in a shorter lifespan).
Humans, thus, have had a great incentive to treat hearing loss going back thousands of years. And they didn’t totally fail at this.
The progression of hearing aid like devices
The first thing to appreciate is that our history of hearing aids isn’t exhaustive. Not all evidence of hearing devices is documented through time. It’s likely that ancient humans did something to alleviate hearing loss, even if there’s no immediate evidence of what that was.
Still, here’s what the known “hearing aid timeline” looks like:
- 1200s: Animal Horns: Hollowed out animal horns served as some of the first proto-hearing aids. People most likely used this device to amplify sound and lessen the effect 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 conduct sound more directly into the ear. There was no amplification used, so these animal horns weren’t functioning on the same level as a modern hearing aid (obviously). But they probably help focus the sound you want to hear and control distracting outside sounds.
- 1600s: Ear Trumpet: For centuries, the “cone shaped” hearing apparatus was the dominant form. And that persisted into the seventeenth century, when “ear trumpets” became a popular means of treating hearing loss. These devices looked, well, like trumpets. You’d put the narrow end in your ear. They came in a wide range of shapes and materials. The early models were quite large and unwieldy. Eventually, creative individuals developed smaller, more collapsible models of these ear trumpets, so people could take them on the go. Once again, these weren’t very efficient, because they didn’t amplify sounds. But they could channel 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. Their ability to amplify should have made hearing aids effective and practical, right? Well, not so much. As of 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: Hello, vacuum tubes! At one point, believe it or not, those vacuum tubes that powered those bulky television sets were cutting edge technology. Relatively smaller hearing aids that were the size of a backpack were now feasible. New technologies also allowed better amplification and somewhat clearer sound.
- 1940s: Pocket-Sized Hearing Aids: It’s a huge leap from a backpack sized hearing aid to a pocket or purse sized one. The same impact was now available with less bulky technology thanks to the development of the transistor. Because of this advancement, people could easily take hearing aids with them wherever they went, it was a significant benefit!
- 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 prominent and easier to use. Sadly, the actual amplification was still pretty basic. These hearing aids basically just made everything louder. 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 implemented and commercially introduced 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. 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 growing amount of state-of-the-art technology has been put into these digital hearing aids since they were invented. Wireless, Bluetooth technology came first. Today, modern hearing aids will help you hear better than ever by utilizing machine learning algorithms. Hearing aids are more convenient and more effective because of this integration with other technologies.
History’s most advanced hearing aids
Mankind has been working on and bettering hearing loss for centuries, at least.
Better than at any other time in history, we are able to accomplish that with modern hearing aids. And because they’re so effective, these little devices are also more popular than ever before. A wide variety of hearing problems can be managed.
So if you want to get back to connecting with your children or your loved ones or the cashier at the checkout lane, hearing aids can help you do it. (See? No aliens involved.)
Call us and make an appointment to learn what hearing aids can do for you!