History Of The Hearing Aid

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Technology seems to lean towards making things smaller or thinner while packing more functionality into an ever-diminishing size. Think of how dramatically TVs and cell phones have changed over the years.

How about hearing aids? How did it all begin? Let us walk you through a brief history of these ever-evolving devices.


history of the hearing aid | Selective Hearing

Earliest History – 1640

Way back in 1640 is the first record of anyone writing about a hearing aid of any form. In this case, it was the large, brass ear trumpet we are all familiar with from old movies.

Ear Trumpets – 1800

Despite being used in 1640, it was over 100 years before they started being manufactured specifically as hearing aids. Frederick C Rein was the first to start producing purpose-made ear trumpets in 1796.

Alongside these trumpets, another form of hearing aid was produced: the ‘conversation tube’. Not far away from the paper cup and string ‘phones’ many of us used as kids, the user held one side to their ear and the other to the speaker. Not exactly subtle.

The fact that both devices were so conspicuous prompted a series of disguised trumpets and conversation tubes. One of the most elaborate examples of these was created for King John VI of Portugal: a hearing throne!

Carbon Hearing Aids – 1900

With the introduction of electricity, everything began to change. Hearing aids of this era were about the size of a lunchbox, and electricity flowed through carbon balls into a speaker to amplify sound. Though innovative at the time, the sound wasn’t the clearest.

Vacuum Tube – 1920

20 years later, vacuum tubes were introduced, creating a much cleaner, and louder sound. These clever tubes were able to boost sound up to 70dB louder than their carbon counterparts.

Transistor Hearing Glasses – 1950

The 1950s came around, and the invention of transistors brought with them three new types of hearing aid.

There were two transistor-based products based on the earlier vacuum models: a much smaller version that fitted around the ear, and a hearing aid that fitted into eyeglasses. The latter was so popular that by 1959, 50% of all hearing aids were hearing glasses.

The third was a major leap forward in technology: the cochlear implant, which appeared in 1957 and paved the way for the type of hearing aids we wear today.

Cochlear Implants – 1970 to 2014

The cochlear implant rapidly became smaller and much more advanced: from a microelectronic implant to bilateral and hybrid versions in the 1990s.

Modern Hearing Aids 2014 – Present Day

Hearing aids are now not only tiny, near-invisible devices, they are packed full of connective, assistive technology to make life in a digital world run smoothly.

Give Selective Hearing a call to discuss how this amazing modern technology can make your life healthier and happier.