When it comes to history, there are three distinct kinds of individuals: individuals who find history to be amazingly interesting, people who think history is horribly dull, and people who think history is full of aliens.
Aliens aren’t behind the history of hearing aids. But the true story is probably pretty weird as well. After all, hearing loss isn’t exactly a new thing; it’s been around as long as we have. People have, as a result, been attempting to discover new effective ways to deal with hearing loss since the beginning of our existence.
An appreciation for your incredible little digital devices, their features, and why it’s important to use them, can be gained by learning a bit of history about them.
Hearing loss has existed for thousands of years
Evidence of hearing loss going back to the very start of human existence has been found by archaeologists. Fossil evidence shows indicators of ear pathologies. It’s rather amazing! Reports of hearing loss also start popping up once written language is created (for example, there are many Egyptian sources that discuss hearing loss symptoms).
So, clearly, hearing loss is nothing new. And it’s likely always kind of sucked (especially when left untreated). 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 may not have been able to detect danger.
Humans, thus, have had a strong incentive to address hearing loss for thousands of years. And they’ve even managed some very good successes!
A timeline of hearing aid-type devices
It’s important to note that we don’t have a complete history of the hearing aid. Not all evidence of hearing devices is recorded through time. It’s likely that ancient humans did something to relieve hearing loss, even if there’s no direct evidence of what that was.
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 dates back to the 1200s, and it’s likely people used them to help minimize the impacts of hearing loss. The concept was that the funnel-shape of a hollowed out animal bone would help conduct sound more directly into the ear. Clearly, this device isn’t working on the level of a modern hearing aid because there’s no amplification. 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 prevalent form for centuries. These “ear trumpets” continued to be a favored way to treat hearing loss throughout the seventeenth century. These devices looked, well, like trumpets. The small end would go inside your ear. They came in a wide variety of shapes and materials. At first, they were large and cumbersome. Eventually, creative individuals created smaller, more collapsible versions of these ear trumpets, so people could take them on the go. Again, these were never very efficient, because they didn’t amplify sounds. But they were able to funnel sounds into your ear, and direct sound more intentionally toward you.
- 1900s: Electronic Amplification: Alright, here we go: the invention of the carbon microphone (okay, the carbon microphone was actually developed in the late 1800s, but it wasn’t really employed for hearing aids until later). This should start amplifying and make hearing aids a no-brainer for effectiveness, right? Well, not so much. In the early 1900s, these devices were big, and not really wearable. The root idea was there, but the technology wasn’t fine-tuned enough to be truly practical.
- 1920s: Wearable Hearing Devices: Say hello to vacuum tubes! The same technology that energized those old, extremely bulky television sets was actually state-of-the-art, at that time! Relatively smaller hearing aids that were the size of a backpack were now possible. Slightly clearer sound and improved amplification were also feasible.
- 1940s: Pocket-Sized Hearing Aids: From fitting a hearing aid in a backpack to being capable of putting one in your pocket or purse, it’s a significant leap! This was due to the development of the transistor, which meant you needed less technological bulk to attain the same effect. It became a substantial advantage, as a result of this technology, to take your hearing aid with you wherever you went.
- 1970s and 1980s: Hearing Aids Get Smaller: Hearing aids became smaller as technology advanced. Hearing aids got considerably smaller in the 1970s and 80s. Consequently, they became more popular and easier to use. Unfortunately, the actual amplification was still fairly basic. They just increased the volume of all of the sound they picked up. It was better than nothing, but still not quite what most people needed to effectively 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 were a game changer, they provided improved quality of sound, more ways to customize amplification, and the ability to pack everything into a more discrete case. With the advent of digital hearing aids, treatment for hearing loss became much more effective and successful.
- 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. Wireless, Bluetooth technology came first. Today, contemporary hearing aids will help you hear better than ever by using machine learning algorithms. Hearing aids are more convenient and more effective because of this integration with other technologies.
History’s best hearing aids
For centuries or longer, we have been working on dealing with hearing loss.
Modern hearing aids can accomplish that better than at any time in human history. And because they’re so effective, these little devices are also more prominent than ever before. A wide range of hearing issues can be addressed.
So hearing aids can help you if you want to develop a better connection with your friends, loved ones, or the clerk at your local pharmacy. (See? No aliens involved.)
Learn how hearing aids can improve your life. Call us for an appointment.
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