There are three kinds of people out there: those who are really interested and fascinated by history, those whose eyes glaze over and they begin to fall asleep when history is mentioned, 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 weird too. After all, hearing loss isn’t really a new thing; it’s been around as long as we have. People have, consequently, been attempting to come up with new effective ways to deal with hearing loss since the dawn of our existence.
An appreciation for your incredible little digital devices, their features, and why it’s important to wear them, can be gained by learning some history about them.
For thousands of years, people have been coping with hearing loss
Evidence of hearing loss going back to the very start of human existence has been discovered by archaeologists. Fossil evidence reveals signs of ear pathologies. It’s fairly cool! Reports of hearing loss also begin showing up as soon as written language is created (for instance, there are many Egyptian sources that discuss hearing loss symptoms).
Obviously, hearing loss isn’t new. And it wasn’t any better then than it is now (this is particularly true because it was harder to deal with then). Communication will be much more difficult if you have untreated hearing loss. Friends and loved ones may become more distant. In a more “hunter and gatherer” style of society, you may also lose your ability to detect danger (resulting in a shorter lifespan).
Humans, thus, have had a strong incentive to address hearing loss for thousands of years. And they’ve even managed some great successes!
A timeline of hearing aid-type devices
It’s significant to mention that we don’t have a complete history of the hearing aid. Not all evidence of hearing devices is recorded through time. Even if we don’t have a written record of precisely 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. People probably used this device to amplify sound and decrease the impact of hearing loss and evidence of this sort of device goes 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 most likely help focus the sound you want to hear and control distracting external sounds.
- 1600s: Ear Trumpet: The “cone shaped” hearing aid was the prominent configuration for hundreds of years. These “ear trumpets” continued to be a popular way to manage hearing loss throughout the seventeenth century. These contraptions looked, well, like trumpets. The small end would go in your ear. You could get them made out of a variety of materials (and with a surprising variety of shapes). At first, they were large and burdensome. Eventually, clever individuals created smaller, more collapsible models of these ear trumpets, so people could bring them on the go. Once again, these were never very efficient, because they didn’t amplify sounds. But they were able to channel 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 implemented into hearing aid technology until early the 1900s. Their ability to amplify should have made hearing aids reliable and practical, right? Well, not so much. As of the early 1900s these devices were too big to be practical or wearable. The root idea was there, but the technology wasn’t fine-tuned enough to be truly useful.
- 1920s: Wearable Hearing Devices: Then came vacuum tubes! At one point, believe it or not, those vacuum tubes that energized those bulky television sets were cutting edge technology. Relatively smaller hearing aids that were the size of a backpack were now feasible. Slightly clearer sound and improved amplification were also feasible.
- 1940s: Pocket-Sized Hearing Aids: From fitting a hearing aid in a backpack to being able to put one in your pocket or purse, it’s a significant leap! This was because of the development of the transistor, which meant you needed less technological bulk to achieve the same effect. As a result of this advancement, people could easily bring hearing aids with them wherever they went, it was a huge advantage!
- 1970s and 1980s: Hearing Aids Get Smaller: As technologies advanced, hearing aids became smaller. Hearing aids got substantially smaller in the 1970s and 80s. Consequently, they became more popular and easier to use. The amplification, unfortunately, was still very basic. These hearing aids essentially just made everything louder. It was better than nothing, but still not quite what most people needed to successfully treat their hearing loss.
- 1982: Digital Hearing Aid: While not fully adopted 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 offering custom amplification and better sound quality. Treatment for hearing loss has become more successful since the evolution of digital hearing aid.
- 2000s (and Beyond): Hearing Aids Get Wireless and Smart: Since the launching of the digital hearing aid, manufacturers have been able to cram more and more technology into these tiny devices. This started with Bluetooth wireless connectivity. These days, contemporary hearing aids will help you hear better than ever by utilizing machine learning algorithms. Hearing aids are more convenient and more effective as a result of this integration with other technologies.
The best hearing aids in history
For hundreds of years or longer, we have been working on dealing with hearing loss.
Better than at any other point in history, we are able to achieve that with contemporary hearing aids. These little pieces of technology are more popular than they ever have been because they’re so beneficial. A wide variety of hearing issues 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.)
Contact us and make an appointment to discover what hearing aids can do for you!