Think hearing loss is a modern-day condition, occurring in line with the development of personal music players and industrial equipment? Think again. This is the evolution of the hearing aid.
Hearing loss has been around for centuries.
Up until the 16th century, people assumed individuals with hearing loss also had other disabilities. Individuals were heavily discriminated against until a Spanish monk named Pedro Ponce disproved this theory by teaching the deaf sons of a nobleman how to read, write, speak and do math.
What Was the First Hearing Aid Invented?
The ear trumphet considered the first hearing aid, was invented in the 17th century. The device came in a number of shapes and sizes and was made of everything from animal horns to sheet iron.
The collapsible ear trumpet was invented next in the late 18th century. The first commercial device was created by Frederick C. Rein in 1800. He tried to make his ear trumpets more aesthetically pleasing, leading to the popular “acoustic headbands,” which were able to hide the device in the user’s hair.
When Was the First Hearing Aid Invented?
Thanks to Alexander Graham Bell’s 1876 invention of the telephone, the first electronic hearing aid was close to a reality. The telephone included technology that could control the loudness, frequency and distortion of sounds, essential components of a hearing aid.
In 1898, Miller Reese Hutchison created the first electric hearing aid. His design used an electric current to amplify weak signals.
The first commercially manufactured hearing aids came to market in 1913. These devices were cumbersome and not very portable.
Vacuum-tube hearing aids were produced in 1920; these tubes were able to turn speech into electric signals and then the signal itself was amplified.
WWII brought about many technological advances, one of which was miniaturization. The transistor was invented in 1948. Transistors were able to replace the vacuum tubes in hearing aids; they were also smaller, needed less battery power and produced less distortion.
The 1970s saw the creation of the microprocessor and the multi-channel amplitude compression. The microprocessor took miniaturization to a new level and the compression ushered in the use of digital technology.
From this point, hearing aids began to quickly evolve. High-speed processors and microcomputers were invented in the 1980s. The first all-digital hearing aids were created in the 1990s. And the 2010s brought the idea of Bluetooth enabled devices into the mix.
As you can see, hearing aids have had quite the journey from their humble beginnings to where they are today. Miller Reese Hutchison would not even recognize the tiny, in-ear devices or the larger, technology-rich aids.