The History of Hearing Aids – An Introduction

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Throughout the history of hearing aids, there has always been an significant factor, which is that the person with the hearing difficulty must be ready to cooperate with the doctors in order to find the greatest solution. In the distant past, many people did not want to be bothered carrying the large devices around with them. Fortunately for these people, it is now much easier to enjoy a life with full hearing. Now, let's take a look at the history of these fantastic, life-enhancing devices.

Time Line

Before 1890s. Acoustic devices made of wood, metal or other such substances. 1890s – 1920s. Somewhat portable devices that missed functionality. 1920s – 1950s. Somewhat portable devices that had developed due to vacuum tubes and transistor, making later models extremely functional and discrete. 1960s – 1980s. Further developments allow hearing aids to be fitted inside the ear. 1980s – 1990s. Computer technology introduces programmable hearing aids to the world. Excellent improvement. 1990s – 2000s. Models that fit completely inside the ear canal become common. 2000s – present. Behind the ear models have taken the vanguard in design.

Early Hearing Aids

Hearing aids from hundreds of years ago were enormous devices, commonly made of wood, animal horn, metal, or seashells. While these large ear trumpets were mildly effective in helping people hear better, they were also a stigma, being physically obvious to all who saw. In order for the user to experience an increase in hearing, he would have to hold the long device to his ear in the direction of the sound he needed to hear. Of course, smaller horns could be used, but the effect was the same. Some people used tubes, taking the receiving end next to the ear of the person who had trouble hearing, and the other end close to a person speaking or any other sound that the user needed to hear.

Royal Hearing

An fascinating anecdote comes from the 19th century, when a king in Portugal who had hearing difficulties used a modified throne to aid his hearing. Kings would not use the awkward trumpets, as they would certainly tarnish their royal image. Moreover, the kings would not want to be remarkably close to the subjects who came to chat to them. This king had his throne altered with tubes developed inside of it, which ended inside a carved lion on the throne. The subject would speak into the lion, and the king would listen to everything clearly. Unfortunately, not everyone had a throne to use.

The Microphone

Thus, hearing aids unluckily did not develop very quickly until the invention of electricity in the late 1800s. Used for the first time in hearing aids in 1892, these basic models were incapable of helping much. Many years later, there was a new model of hearing aids developed. These devices sat on top of tables and amplified the sound using a microphone made from carbon dust and a electric battery. They were an development of Alexander Graham Bell's work on the telephone. This was later supplanted by solid carbon microphones, but the price of these special models was out of reach for almost everyone. The old conventional hearing aid trumpets were still in popular demand, but the modern era of hearing aids was not too far away.

Vacuum Tubes and Transistors

During the 1920s and onward, hearing aids began using vacuum tube technology in order to vastly improve the portability of these devices. Output increased and so did contention among the different manufacturers. However, this particular model of hearing aid would not remain popular for very long. When the transistor was made up in the late 1940s, the size of the hearing aid, which has previously been carried around since it was so great in size, dramatically decreased. John Bardeen, William Shockley, and Walter Brattan improved this technology, and this model is the form on which all modern hearing aids are based. The small size, low-cost price, and extended battery life helped many people hear better.

Further Developments

In the 1960s, directional microphones were innovated, which caused an extremely high level of comprehension for the person. Even during these years, improved circuit boards were being built that could distinguish speech from background noise, like a a breeze blowing around the street corner. The technology increased further in the 1970s and 1980s, and hearing aids became more and more low-priced. New battery technology and digital computer chips all aided the quality of these modern hearing aids.

Over the next decade, programmability became the front for development. Based on new digital engineering, users could alter the specific attributes of a specific hearing aid for specific circumstances. If the wearer were at an intimate dinner with a spouse, they could adjust the settings to be able to hear even gently spoken words. The hearing aid could be programmed for louder situations too, like at a cricket match.

Contemporary Hearing Aids

As you can see, hearing aids adjusted drastically in the past 100 years. Modern hearing aids are full functionality and can distinguish between all sorts of sounds and noises. Design has been the biggest advancement, as hearing aids jumped forms. From surgically implanted aids to CIC (completely in canal) devices to behind the ear hearing aids, this excellent invention has become almost impossible to detect.

Modern times have truly offered an outstanding selection for people who would like to fully enjoy the audile aspect of life.

The Hearing Aid Advice Centre, operated by Colin Forrest, is based in Livingston, Scotland and provides help to those with hearing difficulties throughout Scotland. We also provide this very valuable service throughout the UK and Ireland through carefully selected affiliate companies.

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