It’s unbelievable how many millions of people wear hearing aids in this country, all thanks to 200 years of research and history. The growth of technology has manifested itself in a variety of shapes, sizes, capabilities and colors of devices designed for young and old. Check out this brief history of hearing aids and just how much these devices have improved. Compared with the devices of two centuries ago, which were very large and uncomfortable, today’s hearing aids only weigh a few ounces. It’s this unparalleled versatility that lends itself to better comfort for the hearing impaired individual.
What we Have Today
To put it into perspective, 90 percent of today’s hearing impaired people wear digital devices. It’s necessary to go back a bit to the more primitive modern iterations that started in 1964 when Zenith Radio made the first behind-the-ear models. Through recent decades, inventions brought to light digital signal-processing chips, hybrid analog-digital models and fully digital models by the end of the 1990s. The new million witnessed the emergence of programmable hearing aids for better flexibility, customization and comfort. Today’s hearing aids can seamlessly connect to Bluetooth technology as well as filter out annoying background noise.
Where it all Started
When the 19th century came about, electrical technologies emerged spurred on by the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. Thomas Edison was inspired by this invention and came up with the carbon transmitter for the telephone in 1878. This was designed to boost the basics of the telephone as well as the electrical signal to improve hearing. The 17th and 18th centuries produced devices that offered only limited amplification qualities. The phone invention acted as a starting point for advancement leading to electrical transmission of speech.
Cumbersome Vacuum Devices
These kinds of vacuums are different than what you’re used to. Vacuum tubes, made by Western Electric Co. in 1920 in NYC, utilized technology taken from Lee De Forest’s discovery of the three-component tube previously. The result was far better amplification as well as better frequency, but the comfort level was very low because the items were quite large and impractical. Still, they got smaller as the years passed and indeed served a purpose.
Devices Worn on the Ear
In the 1930s, hearing aids could finally be worn on the ear with relative comfort, produced by a Chicago electronics manufacturer. World War II saw the introduction of more compact models that were reliable thanks to the prevalence of printed circuit boards. These early devices were characterized by a thin wire connecting an earpiece to a receiver, but the wearer had to strap a battery pack to his leg.
Comfort levels and adaptability have certainly come a long way!