The History of Hearing Aids

Advanced Hearing & Balance Specialists Hearing Aids

Hearing loss is not a new condition. People have been suffering from it for centuries.

Up until the 16th century, it was commonly accepted that individuals with hearing loss also suffered from multiple other disabilities; this led to them being heavily discriminated against. It was not until a Spanish monk named Pedro Ponce taught a nobleman’s deaf sons how to read, write, speak and do math that this fact was disproven.

When Was the First Hearing Device Invented?

The ear trumpet was invented in the 17th century and is considered the first device used to help the hearing impaired. These trumpets came in a number of shapes and sizes and were made of everything from sheet iron to animal horns.

The next advancement did not appear until the late 18th century with the invention of the collapsible ear trumpet. Frederick C. Rein was the first to commercially produce these trumpets in 1800. In order to make the devices less noticeable, Rein created acoustic headbands, which hid the hearing devices within the user’s hair.

What About the First Hearing Aid?

The first hearing aid was designed thanks to Alexander Graham Bell’s 1876 invention of the telephone, which included technology that could control the loudness, frequency and distortion of sounds. Telephone in St. George, Utah

The first electric hearing air was invented in 1898 by Miller Reese Hutchison. His design used an electric current to amplify weak signals.

In 1913, the world was introduced to the first commercially manufactured hearing aids. These devices were cumbersome and not very portable. In the 1920s vacuum-tube hearing aids were produced; these tubes were able to turn speech into electric signals and then the signal itself was amplified.

The idea of miniaturization was ushered in with other technological advances spurred by WWII; this was crucial to the advancement of hearing aids. The transistor was invented in 1948. Transistors were able to replace the vacuum tubes in previous models of hearing aids and were smaller, needed less battery power and had less distortion.

The microprocessor and the multi-channel amplitude compression were created in the 1970s. The microprocessor brought miniaturization to a new level and the compression ushered in the use of digital technology.

From there, hearing aids began evolve at a steady clip. The 1980s saw the creation of high-speed processors and microcomputers. The 1990s saw the appearance of the first all-digital hearing aid. And the 2010s brought the idea of Bluetooth® enabled devices into the mix.

Are you ready to start your own hearing aid story? Contact your Advanced Hearing & Balance audiologist today.