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Where Today's Hearing Aids Have Come From

Hearing aid wearers today, who can take advantage of a wide variety of high-performance, technologically advanced, miniaturized devices, may not realize that hearing aids of yesteryear were much bigger, less effective, and not at all user-friendly.

The early ones consisted mostly of ear trumpets made from shells, wood, and hollowed-out animal horns, morphing into tin or rubber speaking tubes of the 18th century. The speaker had to talk - and oftentimes shout - directly into the tube in order to be heard by the hearing-impaired trumpet user.

Listening apparatus of the following century focused on concealment of the bulky acoustic devices in hairstyles, beards, chairs, and accessories such as canes for men and parasols for the ladies.

While the beginning of the 1900s heralded electrical aids - more efficient than the mechanical ones of the past - the body-worn devices continued to be big, bulky, and heavy to carry.

Toward the middle of the 20th century, however, advances in battery and microphone technology allowed miniaturization of hearing aids, leading to devices still widely used - though much improved - such as Behind the Ear (BTE), In the Ear (ITE), open-fit, and in-the-canal aids, among others.


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