Contributed by , president of Healthy Hearing

For more than 125 years, Siemens Hearing Instruments has melded innovative design and unparalleled quality of manufacturing hearing aids

This content was last reviewed on: June 19th, 2015

Siemens is a global company with a long history of innovation - more than 165 years, to be exact. The company operates in a vast array of markets, including automation technologies, energy, transportation, communications, lighting and medical solutions.

While Siemens is successful on a global scale on many fronts with hundreds of products, it is also the largest hearing aid manufacturer in the world with a history of hearing innovation. In fact, Siemens has focused on hearing loss for more than 130 years, and one out of four people worldwide who wear hearing aids use a Siemens device. 

Overview of company history

The company was founded as Siemens and Halske in 1847 in a small workshop in Berlin. The owners, Werner Siemens and J.G. Halske, built an installed telegraphic systems. The company garnered many contracts and was successful in the next 30 years. 

Siemens headquartersWhen Alexander Graham Bell developed the first telephone in 1877, Siemens and Halske jumped on that invention, developing an improved version. They also began making power generating equipment and electrical lighting - Siemens had discovered the dynamo electric principle in 1866.

In the following years, Siemens evolved and ventured into more markets. Siemens' two sons opened subsidiaries in other cities around the world that focused on electric power engineering and automatic telelphone exchange. When World War I began, civilian orders trickled off, but Siemens survived as a company by adapting to the times - it began producing communications devices, gun locks, explosives, aircraft engines and fire control systems for ships for the German military.

The company lagged during World War II - many of its buildings were destroyed and it lost 4/5 of its profits. But by 1945, its manufacturing plants were closed in Berlin and moved to other areas of the world and its headquarters was moved to Munich.

In 1966, the three Siemens brands re-united under the name Siemens AG to keep a stronghold on the global electrical market. The move paid off as Siemens was very prosperous during the 1970s. During the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, Siemens was the official supplier of data processing and telecommunications equipment. In the late 1970s, Siemens centered into the microcircuit technology industry.

In the 1980s, Siemens pushed for even greater global expansion, especially into the Asian and South American technology markets. After all, telecommunications devices were the perfect segue into harnessing benefits from the powerful globalization happening around the world in the 1980s.

In 1992, Siemens formed a partnership with Toshiba and IBM in Japan to advance microprocessors to have the power of a supercomputer. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, Siemens began to hone in on IT, Communications and Industry as its global focus. The company was first listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2001.

Siemens's hearing innovations history

While Siemens is well accomplished in various industries, its hearing devices are particularly noteworthy. Siemens has perpetually been at the forefront of nearly every new technology in hearing.

In 1878, 30 years after the company's founding and only one year after Alexander Graham Bell developed the telephone, Werner von Siemens invented the Phonophor - an improvement on the telephone receiver that used a horseshoe magnet to amplify the sound, making it more usable for people with hearing loss.

Then between 1910 and 1913, Siemens produced its first line of hearing instruments that used carbon microphones to supply more or less electricity to the listening device depending on what level of amplification was needed. In 1914, Siemens and Halske harnessed the flexibility of electricity to develop a small telephone device that had an attachable speaker worn in the ear.

In 1924, Siemens patented its compact carbon microphone and amplifier for hearing aids with an in-pocket device. It would take 25 more years to make use of the technology, but in 1949, Siemens introduced the Phonophor Alpha -  the first pocket-sized hearing aid in the world. It was extremely flat and discreet, although the microphone was a bit sensitive. The company improved upon the pocket hearing aid with the use of transistors in 1953. It was the first in the world and led to the decline in size of hearing aids.

The late 1950s and 1960s was a time of innovation in the actual size, shape and location of the device. The year 1959 saw the first behind-the-ear hearing aid in the world, made by Siemens: The Auriculette 326. The company introduced another version in 191 that used a directional microphone positioned on the front of the device for better hearing. In 1966, Siemens produced the first in-the-ear hearing aid - the Siretta 339 - which could be partially hidden in the ear canal.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Siemens developed and took full advantage of new technologies. the company produced the first noise suppressing technology in 1985 and the first remote-controlled hearing aid for its Telos behind-the-ear model in 1987. The first line of hearing aids with a programmable digital chip was introduced in 1994, and the first fully digital hearing aid with multiple microphones and voice-sensitivity processing followed in 1997. Siemens was at the forefront of improved speech recognition. The company produced the first tinnitus control instrument on the market in 1999.

The 2000s saw many more innovations as hearing aids stayed current with rapidly developing technology. There was the first wireless hearing aid in 2004, the in-office digital earmold impressions scanner in 2005 and the 2011 waterproof digital hearing aid.

Siemens today

Today, Siemens remains a leader in hearing aid and assistive listening device technology. The company makes a full-range of devices, from several lines of nearly invisible in-the-ear hearing aids to classic behind the ear options with a range of technologies and hearing loss solutions depending on individuals' needs. Siemens focuses on helping people improve their lives through better hearing and understanding, and in turn, helping people empower themselves for personal development through being able to connect easily with others.

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