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Hearing Aid History: From Ear Trumpets to Digital Technology

Hearing loss has been a problem for as long as humans have been around and because hearing loss affects people's ability to connect and form relationships with others, Hearing aids were quickly developed to help those who could not hear.   Here’s a short history of hearing aids – a brief guide to how we got to where we are today.

acoustic hearing aids


Pre-electric (Acoustic) Hearing Aids

These ear trumpets captured sound waves, sending them down a tube to the listener’s ear. They were big, bulky, unattractive and, frankly, they didn’t work very well.

Of course, these were state-of-the art "hearing aids" for centuries until electricity became available.



carbon hearing aids


Carbon Hearing Aids (1900-1939)

These were the first electric hearing aids. Carbon was used to amplify electric current to boost the volume of sound. However, they were bulky, buzzy and downright ugly, though for those with hearing loss, they were the only choice.



vacuum tube hearing aids


Vacuum Tube Hearing Aids (1921-1952)

Vacuum tubes were used to control the flow of electricity and, as such, they did make hearing aids a little better. However, these boxy devices were usually table-top models about the size of a clock radio, so the user had to carry around a heavy box and plug in to hear what was going on.  There weren’t many controls or features, so these devices amplified all sound. That must have caused more than a few headaches back then. But hearing aids continued to improve.


electric hearing aids


Transistors to the Rescue (1952-1970s)

Transistors enabled hearing aids to fit into a smaller shell. The first transistor hearing aids appeared in 1952 - actually, two years prior to the first transistor radios which came along in 1954. Transistor hearing aids were still big and bulky with the electronics in a box carried on the body, with ear phones connected to a tangle of wires. Not very convenient, to say the least.

Researchers shrunk transistor hearing aids over the years, making them small enough to fit behind the ear and even in the ear. However, they were anything but low-profile. They also didn’t come packed with features the way today’s hearing aids do.

digital hearing aids


Digital Hearing Aids

Today, quality hearing aids use digital technology – circuitry that’s used in computers and cell phones -  and what a difference a few decades and countless hours of research and development have made!

Today’s digital hearing aids are sleek, discreet, fashionable, high-tech and low-maintenance. They can be tuned by a hearing professional, like an audiologist or hearing aid dispenser, to suit your specific hearing needs. They can connect to multiple devices such televisions and telephones.  They adjust automatically for changes in volume levels and adapt to background noise.

So, if you’re looking for the latest and the greatest in hearing loss solutions, visit your local hearing center. Forget everything Grandpa told you about his hearing aids. Those days and those hearing aids are long gone, thankfully.

Today, you can enjoy the sounds of life without a lot of hassles.  Modern digital hearing aids deliver sound quality and ease-of-use in small, attractive devices.

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