Scott Marquardt, Au.D.
Evolution Of The Hearing Aid
Hearing loss has been around as long as humans. Hearing aids on the other hand, haven’t.
Here at Clarity Hearing, we’re celebrating all things technical this August, so we’ve been delving through the archives to see how hearing aid technology has changed from the first ear trumpets to today’s advanced devices.
We are proud to present: ‘The evolution of the hearing aid’.
Ear trumpets 
The earliest description of ear trumpets goes back to the early 17th century, when hollow animal horns were used to direct sound to the ear. It wasn’t until the 1800s that ear trumpets were specifically manufactured for people with hearing loss. The rather large and cumbersome trumpets were then made of metal.
Conversation tubes 
Sometimes referred to as speaking tubes, these devices were around at the same time as ear trumpets and worked in much the same way but were seen as more of an assistive listening device. The talker would speak into one end so that the sound was directed to the hearing-impaired person.
Carbon hearing aids 
Along with the rise of electricity in the late 1800s came new possibilities for hearing aids. Carbon hearing aids were about the size of a lunchbox and worked by passing electricity through a speaker with little carbon balls inside. Unfortunately, while they were better than the older acoustic conversation tubes, the sound quality wasn’t great.
Vacuum-tube hearing aids 
Vacuum tubes were a huge leap forward for hearing aids. They produced much clearer and louder sound than their carbon predecessors but up to 70 dB louder. They were still pretty big though, about the size of a breeze block. They gradually got smaller, to about the size of a GoPro, so they could be worn on the arm or neck.
Transistor Hearing Aids 
The 1950’s brought transistors into the mix. They worked in a similar way to the vacuum tube hearing aid but were much smaller. Hearing aids were the first gadgets to use transistor technology, even before transistor radios. By 1956, transistors were small enough to fit into a behind-the-ear hearing aid and were even put into eyeglasses frames.
Cochlear implant 
The next big advancement in hearing aid technology was the introduction of cochlear implant. These devices sent electric signals into to the cochlear, the part of the ear that converts sound into the hearing sense. This meant that people with a severe to profound hearing loss could finally start to benefit from hearing aids.
Today’s hearing aids
In the last decade, the advances in hearing aid technology have been more rapid and innovative than ever before. We have moved from large and cumbersome to tiny and powerful. Today’s minuscule devices are actually near-invisible now, and feature technology to rival top-of-the-range computers.
Give the friendly team here at Clarity Hearing a call to discover how these magnificent, high-tech devices can benefit you.