There are three sorts of individuals out there: people who find history to be incredibly interesting, people who think history is horribly boring, and those who think history is full of aliens.
Aliens aren’t behind the history of hearing aids. But the real story is probably pretty strange too. 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 come up with new effective ways to handle hearing loss since the dawn 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 knowing some history about them.
For thousands of years, people have been coping with hearing loss
Archaeologists have found evidence of hearing loss that dates back to the dawn of mankind. They can detect indicators of ear pathologies in fossil evidence. It’s pretty cool! Reports of hearing loss also start appearing once written language is created (for instance, there are many Egyptian sources that discuss hearing loss symptoms).
Which is to say, hearing loss isn’t new. And it wasn’t any better then than it is now (this is especially true because it was more difficult to manage then). When you have neglected 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 result in a shorter lifespan as they may not have been able to detect danger.
So going back thousands of years, humans have had an incentive to learn how to manage hearing loss. And they didn’t completely fail at this.
The progression of hearing aid like devices
It’s important to mention that we don’t have an exhaustive history of the hearing aid. Not all evidence of hearing devices is documented through time. Even if we don’t have a published record of exactly what ancient people did to alleviate hearing loss, it’s very likely that they took steps in that direction.
But here’s what we do know about the known hearing aid timeline:
- 1200s: Animal Horns: Some of the oldest 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 impacts of hearing loss. Sound would be more easily moved to the ear with the funnel shaped horn. Clearly, this device isn’t working like a modern hearing aid because there is 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 prominent format for centuries. And that persisted into the seventeenth century, when “ear trumpets” became a desirable means of managing hearing loss. They were known as “ear trumpets” because, well, that’s what they looked like. You’d stick the narrow end in your ear. You could find them made out of a wide array of materials (and with a surprising variety of shapes). The early models were rather large and unwieldy. Subsequently, more portable versions that could be carried around with you were created. Because there was still no amplification, they were roughly as effective as the larger versions. But they were able to funnel sounds into your ear, and direct sound more intentionally toward you.
- 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. This should begin amplifying and make hearing aids a no-brainer for effectiveness, right? Not really. As of the early 1900s these devices were too big to be practical or wearable. The base idea was there, but the technology wasn’t refined enough to be truly useful.
- 1920s: Wearable Hearing Devices: Hello, vacuum tubes! The same technology that powered those old, extremely bulky television sets was actually state-of-the-art, once upon a time! These vacuum tubes permitted (relatively) smaller, wearable hearing aids to be manufactured, the size of a backpack. New technologies also permitted better amplification and slightly clearer sound.
- 1940s: Pocket-Sized Hearing Aids: From fitting a hearing aid in a backpack to being able to put one in your purse or pocket, it’s a giant leap! The same effect was now available with less cumbersome technology thanks to the invention of the transistor. Because of this progress, people could conveniently bring hearing aids with them wherever they went, it was a significant benefit!
- 1970s and 1980s: Hearing Aids Get Smaller: Hearing aids got smaller as technology improved. The 1970s and 80s, particularly, saw a significant decrease in the size of hearing aids. This made them simpler to use, and more prevalent. The amplification, sadly, was still very basic. They just boosted all of the sound they picked up. It was better than nothing, but still not really what most individuals required to successfully treat their hearing loss.
- 1982: Digital Hearing Aid: The first digital hearing aid was introduced in 1982, though it was not commercially available until 1996. Digital hearing aids were a game changer, they provided improved sound quality, more ways to personalize amplification, and the ability to package everything into a smaller package. Treatment for hearing loss has become more successful since the development of digital hearing aid.
- 2000s (and Beyond): Hearing Aids Get Wireless and Smart: An growing amount of sophisticated technology has been put into these digital hearing aids since they were developed. Wireless, Bluetooth connectivity came first. And currently, modern hearing aids will utilize machine learning algorithms to help you hear better than ever. Hearing aids are more convenient and more effective because of this integration with other technologies.
The best hearing aids in history
For hundreds of years or longer, we have been working on relieving hearing loss.
Better than at any other time 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 effective. They can help with a wider range of hearing issues.
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.)
Discover how hearing aids can improve your life. Give us a call for an appointment.