Hearing aids have been around for longer than many people think.
The simple act of cupping a hand behind the ear increases the sound coming from in front of you by 5-10 dB by creating a larger funnel to gather and deliver sound down through the ear. Hearing aids actually began from this simple knowledge.
Ear trumpets as they're called, began showing up in the 17th Century and marked an advancement in our ability to amplify sound. Ear trumpets could amplify sound between 15-20dB.
The first full-scale manufacturer of hearing aids was Frederick Rein of London in 1800. He produced ear trumpets, hearing fans, and conversation tubes. These instruments helped amplify sounds, while still being portable. I said portable...not attractive! Although for the period the woman with the ear fan in the middle was using cutting edge invisible, or rather camouflaged technology.
Well people a hundred plus years ago weren't all that different than people today. Almost as soon as hearing aids were invented, people were looking for ways to conceal them and they got pretty creative; disguising hearing aids as flower pots, hiding hearing aids in canes and even in satchels.
And my personal favourite.... the hearing aid chair!
Only after Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone did we start to see electronic hearing aids. In-fact one of the first documented portable hearing aids was by J.C. Chester from Montana who attached a telephone to a battery and carried it on him with the receiver on his ear.
The first electric hearing aid, called the Akouphone, was created by Miller Reese Hutchison in 1898.It used a carbon transmitter, so that the hearing aid could be portable. These electronic hearing aids could eventually be shrunk into purses and other accessories.
In 1948 Bell Laboratories developed ‘transistors’ which led to major improvements to the hearing aid. Transistors were far smaller than vaccuum tubes, which is what previously powered hearing aids, and is what allowed the hearing aid to take major strides in miniaturizing it’s design. Body aids were now easy to hide in a shirt pocket and hearing aids could even be hidden inside the temples of eye glasses.
And finally the engineers began to develop the hearing aids that are familiar to us today.
When you see what our grand parents grand parents were forced to wear it's obvious just how far hearing aids have come. It's really however in the last 10 years that digital hearing aids have been refined and advanced to provide us with todays modern hearing aid technology. New advanced digital and computerized hearing aids can turn themselves louder or quieter, they can filter noise, reduce feedback and even focus their microphones on speech to ensure optimized hearing in noisy environments.
Want to learn more about the technology available in modern hearing aids?