How Have Hearing Aids Evolved to Where They are Today?

Today’s hearing aids should give a nod to the devices of yesteryear. Thanks to innovative technology, hearing aids have experienced exponential growth over the last two centuries. It’s pretty important to document how far this technology has actually come. Let’s explore in-depth how hearing aids have evolved since the early designs. Hearing aids, used by millions of individuals all over the planet, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. As the decades have whizzed by, the devices have become smaller and more compact, offering an unprecedented comfort level for the user.

The First Hearing Aids

Designed to capture sound from close by, this primitive form of hearing aid — the ear trumpet — was developed for the widespread use of the hearing impaired community. Although hardly uniform in size, they did share a common attribute in that they were shaped like horns, funneling this sound into the inner ear so the user could hear slightly better. However, these early devices weren’t the best at amplifying sound and only really served to give incremental acoustic improvement.

Then Came Carbon Hearing Aids

Then came the late 19th century and the carbon hearing aid came into existence. These first models of hearing aids as we know them were invented with inspiration from Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone. The carbon microphone works alongside a magnetic receiver and battery. Sound waves struck the outside of the microphone, sending the carbon pieces in the hearing aid pressing against the diaphragm to create sound. These pieces moving through the diaphragm acted much the way sound waves do but they still lacked the sophistication we know of hearing aids today. They suffered from low-quality sound and picked up very few frequencies because of the carbon.

Next up were Vacuum Tube Hearing Aids

As the precursor to the first electronic hearing aids, vacuum tube hearing aids came about in the 1920s featuring a design that Bell Labs later improved on. Essentially they were the first transistors for use in hearing aids, made possible via a transmitter from a telephone that converted sounds and grouped them into electrical signals. The result was amplified sound that moved through the receiver’s end, becoming one of the first portable hearing aids as part of the electronic hearing aid design. Despite its weight, many people expressed their joy over the benefits driven by this new technology for improved hearing health.

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