The Evolution of Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are a fascinating piece of technology. They can help those with serious hearing impairment hear more clearly and even in loud environments. Today’s hearing aids can be hooked up to all of your devices to listen to music or to watch TV with ease. It’s truly remarkable how we went from using animal horns to having invisible hearing aids that can predict the sound around us and automatically adjust the volume. But how did we get here? Find out how the industry evolved from literal horns to discreet, advanced devices today in our quick summary of the evolution of hearing aids below.

Animals Horns

The earliest hearing aids were made out of animal horns from cows and rams. The hollowed-out horn could be used to capture sounds through the larger end and transmitted to the smaller end which was placed up against the ear.

Ear Trumpets

In the 17th century, the animal horns were replaced by ear trumpets. Similar in design and function, the ear trumpet would collect sound waves in the funnel and transport it into the ear. They were used as hearing aids to strengthen the sound energy but were only partially effective at improving hearing as they didn’t have the capability to amplify the sounds.

Carbon Transmitters

The amplification of sound was finally possible when the first digital hearing aids were developed following the invention of the telephone. By holding up a telephone receiver to the ear, Thomas Edison soon discovered that he could hear better through the phone, sparking the idea on how to use electricity to amplify sound. When he invented a carbon transmitter for the phone that amplified an electrical signal to amplify sound, that technology was used to develop an electronically transmitted hearing aid in 1898. Early carbon hearing aids were typically the size of a lunch box and would require you to talk into a microphone that would hook up to a large device that you would hold up to your ear.

Vacuum Tube Technology

In the 1920s the technology was further advanced by creating vacuum tubes that controlled the flow of electricity to increase the sound level. The only issue at the time was the size of the device and the batteries. They were rather large, heavy, and bulky. Over time, these large hearing aids would eventually be reduced to fit into a small wooden box that attached to a receiver that could be held up to the ear.

The First Wearable Hearing Aid

It was in the late 1930s that the first wearable hearing aid was created. This consisted of a receiver that could be clipped to the user’s clothing with a battery pack hidden out of sight in a purse or attached to the leg. It wasn’t convenient but it worked. This new technology spurred a number of inventions over the years. Then World War II started which resulted in the production of several new technologies, including circuit boards and smaller sized batteries that would help to improve hearing aids even further. Designs were soon created that were small enough to fit in a pocket or worn on a pin and that could connect to an earpiece by a wire.

Transistor Technology

It wasn’t until the 1940s and 1950s where more discreet and powerful hearing aids were developed. Transistor technology available at this time allowed hearing aids to be much smaller and to be worn on the body or behind the ear. The flow of the current also made it possible for people to control the volume and enjoy multiple settings.

Silicon Transistors

The use of silicon transmitters in hearing aids in the early 1960s brought the technology closer to what we use today. But it wasn’t until digital signal processing chips were developed in the 1980s that the first digital hearing aid would be made possible.

The First Fully Digital Hearing Aid

Finally, the first fully digital hearing aid was developed in the late 1990s and the amplification of sound was highly improved. Soon after, hearing aids had the ability to be programmed. Since then, digital technology has quickly improved year after year bringing many benefits to the world of hearing aids. Today, hearing aids can be connected to your phone, TV or computer through Bluetooth technology. New models can also learn to read your habits and adapt the sound based on your surroundings. They are also much smaller than the past designs and can hide completely inside your ear. The batteries are also better and longer-lasting with rechargeable options available today.

Today’s hearing aids are more powerful, discreet, smart, and accessible than ever before. If you need new hearing aids, contact us at the Hearing Clinic today. We offer a fantastic selection of leading hearing aid brands and types. From BTE to IIC, we have everything you need to help you hear better and more clearly!