There are three kinds of individuals in the world: those who are very interested and fascinated by history, those whose eyes glaze over and they begin to fall asleep when history is discussed, and people who think that aliens are responsible for history.
Aliens aren’t behind the history of hearing aids. But the real story is probably pretty strange too. After all, hearing loss isn’t really a new thing; it’s been around as long as we have. People have, as a result, been trying to find new effective ways to deal with hearing loss since the dawn of our existence.
Being aware of the history of your hearing aids can give you a greater appreciation of how your own little, digital devices work, and why you should wear them more often.
Hearing loss has existed for thousands of years
Evidence of hearing loss going back to the very beginning of human existence has been discovered by archaeologists. They can detect 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.
So, clearly, hearing loss is nothing new. And it wasn’t any better then than it is now (this is particularly true because it was more difficult to treat then). When you have untreated hearing loss, you will find it more difficult to communicate. Friends and loved ones may become more distant. When humans were a bit more primitive, untreated hearing loss could lead to a shorter lifespan as they might not have been capable of detecting danger.
Humans, thus, have had a strong incentive to address hearing loss going back thousands of years. And they didn’t completely fail at this.
A timeline of hearing aid-type devices
The first thing to know is that our history of hearing aids isn’t exhaustive. Not all evidence of hearing devices is documented through time. 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 recognized hearing aid timeline:
- 1200s: Animal Horns: Some of the earliest known proto-hearing aids were hollowed-out animal horns. Evidence of this type of hearing device goes back to the 1200s, and it’s likely people used them to help minimize the effects of hearing loss. Sound would be more directly moved to the ear with the funnel shaped horn. Clearly, 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 prevalent configuration for hundreds of years. These “ear trumpets” continued to be a favored way to manage hearing loss throughout the seventeenth century. These devices looked, well, like trumpets. You’d stick the small end in your ear. They came in a wide variety of shapes and materials. The early models were rather large and unwieldy. Eventually, more portable models that could be carried around with you were developed. Since there was still no amplification, they were roughly as efficient as the larger versions. But they could funnel sounds into your ear, and direct sound more intentionally toward you.
- 1900s: Electronic Amplification: In the late 1800s, the carbon microphone was developed 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. In the early 1900s, these devices were giant, 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! 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 possible. Slightly clearer sound and better amplification were also possible.
- 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! This was due to the development of the transistor, which meant you required less technological bulk to achieve the same impact. As a result of this progress, people could easily take hearing aids with them wherever they went, it was a significant advantage!
- 1970s and 1980s: Hearing Aids Get Smaller: As technologies got better, hearing aids got smaller. Hearing aids got substantially smaller in the 1970s and 80s. Consequently, they became more prominent and easier to use. Sadly, the actual amplification was still fairly rudimentary. These hearing aids essentially just made everything louder. It was better than nothing, but still not quite what most individuals required to effectively treat their hearing loss.
- 1982: Digital Hearing Aid: The first digital hearing aid was unveiled in 1982, though it wasn’t commercially available until 1996. Digital hearing aids were a game changer, they offered a better sound quality, more ways to personalize amplification, and the ability to package everything into a smaller package. Treatment for hearing loss has become more effective since the development of digital hearing aid.
- 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 developed. This began with Bluetooth wireless connectivity. And currently, modern hearing aids will utilize machine learning algorithms to help you hear better than ever. This integration with other technologies makes hearing aids more effective, and more convenient!
History’s most advanced hearing aids
Humanity has been working on and improving hearing loss for centuries, at least.
Better than at any other point in history, we are able to accomplish that with modern hearing aids. These little pieces of technology are more prominent than they ever have been because they’re so beneficial. A wide variety of hearing problems can be managed.
So if you want to get back to connecting with your children or your family or the cashier at the supermarket, 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!