There are three kinds of individuals out there: those who are very interested and fascinated by history, those whose eyes gloss over and they start to fall asleep when history is discussed, and people who believe that aliens are responsible for history.
The history of hearing aids isn’t full of aliens (sorry not sorry). But the real story is probably pretty strange as well. Hearing loss is, after all, a human condition that has been here as long as we have. People have, consequently, been trying to discover new effective ways to manage hearing loss since the beginning of our existence.
An appreciation for your amazing little digital devices, their functionality, and why it’s important to use them, can be gained by discovering some 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 signs of ear pathologies. It’s kind of amazing! Civilizations such as the Egyptians and even older groups were reporting hearing loss for as long as writing has existed.
Which is to say, hearing loss isn’t new. And it’s likely always kind of sucked (especially when left untreated). Communication will be much more difficult if you have untreated hearing loss. Friends and family members may become more distant. When humans were a little more primitive, untreated hearing loss could result in a shorter lifespan as they might not have been capable of detecting danger.
So for thousands of years, humans have had an incentive to figure out how to treat hearing loss. And they’ve even managed some very good successes!
A timeline of hearing aid-type devices
It’s significant to note that we don’t have a complete history of the hearing aid. Not all evidence of hearing devices is documented through time. It’s likely that ancient humans did something to alleviate hearing loss, even if there’s no immediate evidence of what that was.
But here’s what we do know about the known 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 reduce 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’s no amplification. But it’s likely they give some reasonable ability to limit distracting sounds.
- 1600s: Ear Trumpet: For centuries, the “cone shaped” hearing device was the prevalent format. And that persisted into the seventeenth century, when “ear trumpets” became a popular means of managing hearing loss. They were called “ear trumpets” because, well, that’s what they looked like. You’d put the narrow end in your ear. They came in a wide variety of shapes and materials. Initially, they were large and cumbersome. Eventually, more portable versions that could be carried around with you were developed. Because there was still no amplification, they were roughly as effective as the larger versions. But they could carry sound more directly to your ear.
- 1900s: Electronic Amplification: Alright, here we go: the development of the carbon microphone (okay, the carbon microphone was actually developed in the late 1800s, but it wasn’t really implemented 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 too large to be practical or wearable. The technology would need quite a bit of refinement before it would be very useful.
- 1920s: Wearable Hearing Devices: Then came vacuum tubes! At one time, believe it or not, those vacuum tubes that energized those bulky television sets were cutting edge technology. These vacuum tubes permitted (relatively) smaller, wearable hearing aids to be made, the size of a backpack. New technologies also enabled better amplification and somewhat clearer sound.
- 1940s: Pocket-Sized Hearing Aids: It’s a giant leap from a backpack sized hearing aid to a pocket or purse sized one. This was due to the development of the transistor, which meant you needed less technological bulk to accomplish the same impact. Because of this progress, people could easily bring hearing aids with them wherever they went, it was a significant benefit!
- 1970s and 1980s: Hearing Aids Get Smaller: As technologies improved, hearing aids became smaller. Hearing aids got significantly smaller in the 1970s and 80s. Consequently, they became more prominent and easier to use. Unfortunately, the actual amplification was still fairly basic. They just amplified all of the sound they picked up. Most individuals need something a little more fine tuned to address their hearing loss, but it was still better than nothing.
- 1982: Digital Hearing Aid: While not fully adopted and commercially available 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 personalized amplification and better sound quality. 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 tiny devices. This began with Bluetooth wireless connectivity. These days, contemporary hearing aids will help you hear better than ever by using machine learning algorithms. This integration with other technologies makes hearing aids more effective, and more convenient!
History’s most advanced hearing aids
Humanity has been working on and improving hearing loss for centuries, at least.
Contemporary hearing aids can attain that better than at any time in the history of humanity. These little pieces of technology are more popular than they ever have been because they’re so beneficial. They can help with a larger number of hearing problems.
So hearing aids can help you if you want to create a stronger connection with your friends, loved ones, or the clerk at your local pharmacy. (See? No aliens involved.)
Call us and schedule an appointment to discover what hearing aids can do for you!