There are three types of individuals out there: those who are really interested and fascinated by history, those whose eyes glaze over and they begin to fall asleep when history is discussed, and people who think that aliens are responsible for history.
Aliens aren’t responsible for the history of hearing aids. But it’s probably a lot stranger than you might believe. Hearing loss is, after all, a human condition that has been around as long as we have. Because of this, people have been uncovering clever ways to manage hearing loss for centuries, if not longer.
An appreciation for your incredible little digital devices, their features, and why it’s important to wear them, can be gained by knowing a bit of history about them.
For thousands of years, people have been coping with hearing loss
Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of hearing loss that dates back to the beginning of mankind. They can detect signs of ear pathologies in fossil evidence. It’s pretty cool! Reports of hearing loss also start popping up as soon as written language is created (for instance, there are many Egyptian sources that discuss hearing loss symptoms).
Obviously, hearing loss isn’t new. And it wasn’t any better then than it is now (this is especially true because it was harder to manage then). When you have untreated hearing loss, you will find it harder to communicate. Friends and loved ones may become more distant. When humans were a little more primitive, untreated hearing loss could lead to a shorter lifespan as they might not have been capable of detecting danger.
So going back thousands of years, humans have had an incentive to learn how to treat hearing loss. And they didn’t totally fail at this.
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. 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 recognized hearing aid timeline:
- 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 reduce the impacts of hearing loss. Sound would be more directly carried to the ear with the funnel shaped horn. Obviously, 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 limit distracting external sounds.
- 1600s: Ear Trumpet: The “cone shaped” hearing aid was the prevalent format for hundreds of years. These “ear trumpets” continued to be a popular way to manage hearing loss throughout the seventeenth century. These contraptions looked, well, like trumpets. You’d stick the small end in your ear. They came in a wide range of shapes and materials. The early models were rather large and unwieldy. Eventually, clever individuals created smaller, more collapsible models of these ear trumpets, so people could take them on the go. Once again, these weren’t very effective, because they didn’t amplify sounds. But they could carry sound more directly to your ear.
- 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 start amplifying and make hearing aids a no-brainer for effectiveness, right? Well, not so much. In the early 1900s, these devices were large, and not really wearable. The base idea was there, but the technology wasn’t refined enough to be truly useful.
- 1920s: Wearable Hearing Devices: Hello, vacuum tubes! At one point, believe it or not, those vacuum tubes that energized those bulky television sets were cutting edge technology. These vacuum tubes allowed (relatively) smaller, wearable hearing aids to be made, the size of a backpack. New technologies also allowed better amplification and somewhat clearer sound.
- 1940s: Pocket-Sized Hearing Aids: It’s a huge leap from a backpack sized hearing aid to a purse or pocket sized one. The same effect was now possible with less bulky technology as a result of the development of the transistor. It became a substantial advantage, as a result of this technology, to take your hearing aid with you wherever you went.
- 1970s and 1980s: Hearing Aids Get Smaller: Hearing aids got smaller as technology improved. Hearing aids got substantially 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: The first digital hearing aid was unveiled in 1982, though it wasn’t commercially available until 1996. Digital hearing aids changed the hearing aid landscape by making everything smaller and more discrete while providing custom amplification and clearer sound quality. Treatment for hearing loss has become more effective since the evolution of digital hearing aid.
- 2000s (and Beyond): Hearing Aids Get Wireless and Smart: Since the launching of the digital hearing aid, manufacturers have been able to cram more and more technology into these little devices. This started with Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Today, contemporary 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!
The most sophisticated hearing aids in history
Mankind has been working on and bettering hearing loss for centuries, if not longer.
Modern hearing aids can achieve that better than at any time in human history. And because they’re so effective, these little devices are also more prominent than ever before. A wide range of hearing issues can be addressed.
So hearing aids can help you if you want to develop 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 learn what hearing aids can do for you!
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