There are three types of individuals in the world: individuals who find history to be incredibly interesting, individuals who think history is terribly boring, and people who believe history is full of aliens.
Aliens aren’t behind the history of hearing aids. But it’s probably a lot weirder than you may think. 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 manage hearing loss for hundreds of years, if not longer.
An appreciation for your amazing little digital devices, their features, and why it’s important to wear them, can be gained by discovering a bit of history about them.
Hearing loss has existed for thousands of years
Archaeologists have found evidence of hearing loss that dates back to the beginning of humanity. They can see signs of ear pathologies in fossil evidence. It’s pretty cool! Mentions of hearing loss also begin appearing once written language becomes a thing (for example, there are many Egyptian sources that mention hearing loss symptoms).
Which is to say, hearing loss isn’t new. And it’s likely always kind of sucked (particularly when neglected). When you have neglected hearing loss, you will find it more difficult to communicate. You might become alienated from friends and family members. In a more “hunter and gatherer” type of society, you may also lose your ability to detect danger (resulting in a shorter lifespan).
So going back thousands of years, humans have had an incentive to figure out how to manage hearing loss. And they’ve even managed some terrific successes!
The progression of hearing aid like devices
It’s important to note that we don’t have an exhaustive history of the hearing aid. Throughout time, some of the developments in hearing aid technology were simply not documented. It’s very likely that ancient humans did something to alleviate hearing loss, even if there’s no immediate evidence of what that was.
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 type of hearing device goes back to the 1200s, and it’s likely people used them to help lessen the impacts of hearing loss. Sound would be more easily carried to the ear with the funnel shaped horn. There was no amplification involved, so these animal horns weren’t functioning on the same level as a modern hearing aid (obviously). But they most likely help focus the sound you want to hear and limit distracting outside sounds.
- 1600s: Ear Trumpet: For centuries, the “cone shaped” hearing apparatus was the prominent format. These “ear trumpets” continued to be a favored way to manage hearing loss through the seventeenth century. They were called “ear trumpets” because, well, that’s what they looked like. The small end would go inside your ear. You could get them made out of a variety of materials (and with a surprising range of shapes). At first, they were large and burdensome. Eventually, more portable versions that could be carried around with you were created. Again, these were never very effective, because they didn’t amplify sounds. But they could funnel sounds into your ear, and direct sound more intentionally toward you.
- 1900s: Electronic Amplification: Okay, here we go: the development of the carbon microphone (okay, the carbon microphone was really invented in the late 1800s, but it wasn’t really employed for hearing aids until later). Their ability to amplify should have made hearing aids reliable and practical, right? Not really. In the early 1900s, these devices were giant, and not really 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! The same technology that energized those old, extremely bulky television sets was actually cutting edge, once upon a time! These vacuum tubes permitted (relatively) smaller, wearable hearing aids to be manufactured, the size of a backpack. Slightly clearer sound and better 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 pocket or purse, it’s a giant leap! This was the result of the development of the transistor, which meant you needed less technological bulk to attain the same impact. Because of this progress, people could easily bring hearing aids with them wherever they went, it was a significant advantage!
- 1970s and 1980s: Hearing Aids Get Smaller: Hearing aids got smaller as technology advanced. Hearing aids got significantly smaller in the 1970s and 80s. This made them easier to use, and more prevalent. The amplification, unfortunately, 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 people required to effectively treat their hearing loss.
- 1982: Digital Hearing Aid: While not fully implemented and commercially available until 1996, 1982 was the year of the first digital hearing aid. Digital hearing aids were a game changer, they offered improved quality of sound, more ways to customize amplification, and the ability to package everything into a more discrete case. Treatment for hearing loss has become more effective since the evolution of digital hearing aid.
- 2000s (and Beyond): Hearing Aids Get Wireless and Smart: An increasing amount of innovative technology has been put into these digital hearing aids since they were invented. This started out with Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Today, 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
Humanity has been working on and bettering hearing loss for centuries, if not longer.
Better than at any other point in history, we are able to achieve that with contemporary hearing aids. And because they’re so beneficial, these little devices are also more popular than ever. A wide range of hearing problems can be managed.
So if you want to get back to connecting with your children or your loved ones or the cashier at the checkout lane, hearing aids can help you do it. (See? No aliens involved.)
Contact us and schedule an appointment to find out what hearing aids can do for you!