There are three kinds of people in the world: people who find history to be amazingly interesting, individuals who think history is horribly dull, and people who think history is full of aliens.
The history of hearing aids isn’t full of aliens (sorry not sorry). 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. Consequently, people have been exploring clever ways to cope with hearing loss for centuries, if not longer.
An appreciation for your amazing little digital devices, their functionality, and why it’s important to use them, can be gained by learning some history about them.
Hearing loss has been around for thousands of years
Archaeologists have discovered evidence of hearing loss that dates back to the dawn of humanity. Fossil evidence reveals signs of ear pathologies. It’s fairly cool! Mentions of hearing loss also start showing up as soon as written language becomes a thing (for instance, there are many Egyptian sources that mention hearing loss symptoms).
So, clearly, hearing loss is nothing new. And it wasn’t any better then than it is now (this is especially true because it was harder to treat then). Communication will be a lot more difficult if you have untreated hearing loss. You might lose touch with friends and family members. When humans were a bit more primitive, neglected hearing loss could lead to a shorter lifespan as they might not have been able to detect danger.
So for thousands of years, humans have had an incentive to learn how to manage hearing loss. And they’ve even managed some very good successes!
The progression of hearing aid like devices
It’s relevant to note 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 exactly what ancient people did to alleviate hearing loss, it’s very likely that they took steps 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. Evidence of this form of hearing device dates back to the 1200s, and it’s likely people used them to help lessen the effects of hearing loss. Sound would be more easily carried 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 it’s likely they provided some reasonable ability to reduce distracting sounds.
- 1600s: Ear Trumpet: For hundreds of years, the “cone shaped” hearing apparatus was the prominent form. These “ear trumpets” were 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. They came in a wide range of shapes and materials. The early models were rather large and unwieldy. Eventually, more portable versions that could be carried around with you were developed. Since there was still no amplification, they were about as efficient as the larger versions. But they could funnel 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 effective and practical, right? Not really. In the early 1900s these devices were too big to be realistic or wearable. The base principle was there, but the technology wasn’t refined enough to be truly useful.
- 1920s: Wearable Hearing Devices: Then came vacuum tubes! The same technology that powered those old, extremely bulky television sets was actually cutting edge, once upon a time! Relatively smaller hearing aids that were about the size of a backpack were now feasible. New technologies also allowed better amplification and somewhat clearer sound.
- 1940s: Pocket-Sized Hearing Aids: It’s a giant leap from a backpack sized hearing aid to a purse or pocket sized one. This was due to the development of the transistor, which meant you needed less technological bulk to achieve the same impact. It became a huge 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 got smaller as technology advanced. The 1970s and 80s, in particular, saw a significant reduction in the size of hearing aids. This made them simpler to use, and more prevalent. The amplification, unfortunately, was still very basic. These hearing aids basically just made everything louder. It was better than nothing, but still not quite what most individuals required to successfully treat their hearing loss.
- 1982: Digital Hearing Aid: While not fully implemented 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 package everything into a smaller case. Treatment for hearing loss has become more effective since the development of digital hearing aid.
- 2000s (and Beyond): Hearing Aids Get Wireless and Smart: Since the introduction of the digital hearing aid, manufacturers have been able to stack more and more technology into these little devices. Wireless, Bluetooth connectivity came first. These days, modern hearing aids will help you hear better than ever by utilizing machine learning algorithms. This integration with other technologies makes hearing aids more effective, and more convenient!
History’s best hearing aids
For centuries or longer, humans have been working on managing hearing loss.
Better than at any other time in history, we are able to accomplish that with contemporary hearing aids. These little pieces of technology are more prevalent than they ever have been because they’re so beneficial. They can help with a larger number of hearing problems.
So if you want to get back to connecting with your kids or your family or the cashier at the checkout lane, hearing aids can help you do it. (See? No aliens involved.)
Call us and make an appointment to learn what hearing aids can do for you!
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