Did you know 17 percent of Americans experience some degree of hearing loss? They probably don’t think much about the evolution of the hearing aid they’re wearing but the truth is, those devices have a long and varied history. Made in a wide spectrum of shapes and sizes, accommodating everyone young and old, hearing aids have come a long way over the last two centuries. Each advancement has brought with it more comfort and smaller devices. It’s cool to see just how far we’ve come in the technology that has led to the latest hearing devices.

The Emergence of the First Hearing Aids

Although the technical term back then was ear trumpet, these weren’t really like modern hearing aids at all. They were first developed for use in the hearing impaired community but they didn’t feature size uniformity. That being said, they were horn-shaped and responsible for picking up on nearby sounds to direct them into the inner ear. The intent was so the user could hear slightly better but the sound amplification wasn’t all that great. Only those with slight hearing impairments found any benefit to these at all.

Carbon Hearing Aids Come on the Scene

Inspired by Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone, carbon hearing aids were developed once the late 19th century hit. Using a carbon microphone working in allegiance with a magnetic receiver as well as  battery, sound would reach the outside of the microphone and carbon pieces in the hearing aid pressed against the diaphragm. This was what created sound. These pieces worked in a similar way to sound waves as they moved through the diaphragm. However, these devices were plagued with low-quality sound and picked up very few frequencies thanks to the carbon, so those with severe hearing impairments didn’t really benefit from this advancement in technology.

Vacuum Tube Hearing Aids are Next

Tube hearing aids made their way onto the hearing aid scene once the 1920s came around. They featuring a design that Bell Labs later tweaked to become the precursors to the first electronic hearing aids. Using transistors to operate the hearing aids, a transmitter from a telephone converted sounds to turn them into electrical signals. Sound amplification resulted, moving through the receiver’s end to become a portable hearing aid as part of this revolutionary electronic hearing aid design. Everyone was excited about this advancement in technology, despite the fact that it weighed seven pounds!


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