When it comes to history, there are three distinct kinds of individuals: those who are really interested and fascinated by history, those whose eyes glaze over and they start to fall asleep when history is discussed, and people who believe that aliens are responsible for history.
The history of hearing aids isn’t full of aliens (sorry not sorry). But it’s probably a lot weirder than you may believe. After all, hearing loss isn’t really a new thing; it’s been around as long as humans have. People have, consequently, been trying to find 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 wear them, can be gained by discovering some history about them.
For thousands of years, people have been dealing with hearing loss
Evidence of hearing loss going back to the very beginning of human existence has been discovered by archaeologists. They can see indicators of ear pathologies in fossil evidence. It’s kind of amazing! Reports of hearing loss also start popping up as soon as written language is created (for instance, there are numerous Egyptian sources that mention hearing loss symptoms).
Which is to say, hearing loss isn’t new. And it’s likely always sort of awful (especially when left untreated). Communication will be a lot more difficult if you have neglected hearing loss. You might lose touch with friends and loved ones. In a more “hunter and gatherer” style of society, you may also lose your ability to detect danger (leading to a shorter lifespan).
So for thousands of years, humans have had an incentive to figure out how to treat hearing loss. And they’ve even managed some great successes!
The progression of hearing aid like devices
It’s important to mention that we don’t have a complete history of the hearing aid. Throughout time, some of the advancements in hearing aid technology were simply not recorded. Even if we don’t have a written record of exactly what ancient people did to alleviate hearing loss, it’s very likely that they took measures in that direction.
But here’s what we do know about the known 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 lessen the effect of hearing loss and evidence of this sort of device goes back to the 1200s. Sound would be more directly carried to the ear with the funnel shaped horn. Obviously, this device isn’t working on the level of a modern hearing aid because there is no amplification. But they most likely help focus the sound you want to hear and control distracting outside sounds.
- 1600s: Ear Trumpet: The “cone shaped” hearing aid was the prominent form for centuries. These “ear trumpets” continued to be a favored way to manage hearing loss through the seventeenth century. They were called “ear trumpets” because, well, that’s what they looked like. The narrow end would go inside your ear. They came in a large number of shapes and materials. The early models were rather large and awkward. Subsequently, more portable versions that could be carried around with you were developed. Because there was still no amplification, they were roughly as efficient as the bigger versions. But they could bring sound more directly to your ear.
- 1900s: Electronic Amplification: In the late 1800s, the carbon microphone was invented but wouldn’t be implemented into hearing aid technology until early the 1900s. Their ability to amplify should have made hearing aids reliable and practical, right? Not really. As of the early 1900s these devices were too large to be practical or 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 powered those old, extremely bulky television sets was actually cutting edge, once upon a time! Relatively smaller hearing aids that were the size of a backpack were now possible. New technologies also permitted better amplification and slightly clearer sound.
- 1940s: Pocket-Sized Hearing Aids: From fitting a hearing aid in a backpack to being capable of putting one in your purse or pocket, it’s a significant leap! The same impact was now possible with less bulky technology thanks to the invention of the transistor. Because of this progress, people could easily bring hearing aids with them wherever they went, it was a huge benefit!
- 1970s and 1980s: Hearing Aids Get Smaller: Hearing aids got smaller as technology improved. Hearing aids got significantly 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. They just increased the volume of all of the sound they picked up. It was better than nothing, but still not really what most people required to successfully treat their hearing loss.
- 1982: Digital Hearing Aid: While not fully implemented and commercially available 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 offering personalized amplification and better sound quality. Treatment for hearing loss has become more effective since the evolution 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. Hearing aids are more convenient and more effective due to this integration with other technologies.
History’s best hearing aids
Mankind has been working on and bettering hearing loss for centuries, at least.
Better than at any other point in history, we are able to achieve that with modern hearing aids. These little pieces of technology are more prevalent than they ever have been because they’re so effective. They can help with a larger number of hearing problems.
So if you want to get back to connecting with your kids or your family or the cashier at the checkout lane, hearing aids can help you do it. (See? No aliens involved.)
Contact us and schedule an appointment to find out what hearing aids can do for you!