When it comes to history, there are three distinct types of people: individuals who find history to be amazingly interesting, individuals who think history is terribly dull, and people who believe history is full of aliens.
Aliens aren’t responsible for the history of hearing aids. But the true story is probably pretty strange as well. Hearing loss is, after all, a human challenge that has been here as long as we have. People have, as a result, been trying to find new effective ways to manage hearing loss since the dawn of our existence.
Being aware of the history of your hearing aids can give you a better appreciation of how your own tiny, digital devices work, and why you should use them more frequently.
For thousands of years, people have been coping with hearing loss
Archaeologists have found evidence of hearing loss that dates back to the beginning of humanity. Fossil evidence reveals signs of ear pathologies. It’s rather 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’s likely always sort of awful (especially when left untreated). When you have untreated hearing loss, you will find it harder to communicate. You might lose touch with friends and loved ones. In a more “hunter and gatherer” type of society, you may also lose your ability to detect danger (leading to a shorter lifespan).
So going back thousands of years, humans have had an incentive to figure out how to treat hearing loss. And they’ve even managed some terrific successes!
The progression of hearing aid like 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 published record of precisely what ancient people did to relieve hearing loss, it’s very likely that they took measures in that direction.
Still, here’s what the known “hearing aid timeline” looks like:
- 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 effect of hearing loss and evidence of this sort of device goes back to the 1200s. Sound would be more easily carried 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 probably help focus the sound you want to hear and control distracting external sounds.
- 1600s: Ear Trumpet: For hundreds of years, the “cone shaped” hearing device was the prevalent format. These “ear trumpets” continued to be a favored way to manage hearing loss throughout the seventeenth century. These devices looked, well, like trumpets. The small end would go in your ear. They came in a wide variety of shapes and materials. The early models were rather large and unwieldy. Subsequently, more portable versions that could be carried around with you were developed. Because there was still no amplification, they were about as efficient as the bigger versions. But they could carry 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? Well, not so much. As of the early 1900s these devices were too big to be realistic or wearable. The technology would need quite a bit of refinement before it would be very useful.
- 1920s: Wearable Hearing Devices: Say hello to 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 about the size of a backpack were now possible. Slightly clearer sound and improved 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 giant leap! This was due to the development of the transistor, which meant you needed less technological bulk to accomplish the same effect. It became a substantial advantage, as a result of this technology, to bring your hearing aid with you wherever you went.
- 1970s and 1980s: Hearing Aids Get Smaller: Hearing aids became smaller as technology improved. The 1970s and 80s, in particular, saw a significant decrease in the size of hearing aids. As a result, they became more popular and easier to use. Unfortunately, the actual amplification was still pretty basic. They just boosted all of the sound they picked up. Most individuals need something a little more fine tuned to manage their hearing loss, but it was still better than nothing.
- 1982: Digital Hearing Aid: The first digital hearing aid was unveiled in 1982, though it was not available commercially until 1996. Digital hearing aids changed the hearing aid landscape by making everything smaller and more discrete while offering custom amplification and clearer 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: An increasing amount of sophisticated technology has been put into these digital hearing aids since they were developed. Wireless, Bluetooth technology came first. 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 most advanced hearing aids
Mankind has been working on and bettering hearing loss for centuries, if not longer.
Modern hearing aids can achieve that better than at any point in human history. These little pieces of technology are more popular than they ever have been because they’re so effective. A wide range of hearing problems can be managed.
So hearing aids can help you if you want to develop a stronger connection with your friends, loved ones, or the clerk at your local pharmacy. (See? No aliens involved.)
Call us and make an appointment to discover what hearing aids can do for you!
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