A Brief History of Hearing Aids

by Dr. Wendy N. Thorne, Au.D.

Being located in a historical area, we are fascinated with history and how certain things came about. At Fauquier Hearing Services, we even have a display of hearing devices that have been used throughout the past couple centuries to help people better hear. Of course, while we show those, we dispense, as part of an overall treatment plan, state-of-the-art hearing technologies based on the individual needs of our patients.

It truly is awe inspiring to see how far we have come with the technologies of today. Here are some great examples for you:

1600s–1900s
Trumpet Hearing Aids

The first hearing aids were created by Jean Leurechon, a French mathematician. He also wrote the first known record of a hearing aid. These first devices were called ear trumpets, as they were shaped like horns. Patients would hold these non-electric devices to their ears to direct sound in; the effect was similar to cupping a hand behind your ear. Ear trumpets were used until the 20th century.

1900–1920
Telephone Aids

At the turn of the 20th century, electric hearing aids were developed. These first aids were designed around the principles of the early telephone. These hearing aids had a carbon microphone that used sound waves to compress carbon against a diaphragm. Unfortunately, these hearing aids were found to be ineffective for severe hearing losses.

1920–1940
Vacuum Tube Aids

Vacuum tube aids were invented by Earl C. Hanson, who called them Vactuphones. These were able to help more severe cases of hearing loss and were fully portable. However, they were expensive, as they typically required two batteries to operate.

1950–1980
Analog Hearing Aids

This was the emergence of fully ear-level hearing devices that were more discreet than previous models. These hearing devices contained analog technology that allowed for more comfortable sound quality. However, analog technology was not adept at filtering noise or enhancing speech understanding well.

1980–2010s
Digital Hearing Aids

During the ‘80s, companies started creating small, digital signal processors for hearing aids. Making hearing aids digital allowed sound input to be filtered into bands and channels to allow minuscule fine-tuning adjustments. Digital devices can also efficiently reduce environmental noise while enhancing speech. All hearing technology on the market today is digital.

Current Technology

The newest digital technology on the market incorporates wireless devices as well as Bluetooth®. These new features enable hearing aids to wirelessly communicate with one another, giving the wearer an even more realistic, precise bilateral hearing perception. Built-in Bluetooth enables these hearing aids to sync wirelessly to cellphones, TVs, and MP3 players, allowing individuals to stay connected to the technology around them.

Stop by our office to see our collection of antique hearing aids and to learn about how the newest devices can help you hear your best! Give us a call and we can schedule you quickly, as we are now accepting new patients! Our number is 540.724.0086. Let us help you hear your best!

Source: Audicus (October 2014). From Trumpet to iPhone: A Visual History of Hearing Aids .