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Who Invented the Hearing Aid?

 

a hearing aid held in two hands

The hearing aid is an innovation that revolutionized the way in which people with hearing impairments live their lives. Today, they’re used by millions of people of all ages to help with all kinds of hearing problems. But where did it all start and who actually invented the hearing aid?

Those are the questions we’re going to clear up for you today. There’s a long and fascinating history behind the development of the hearing aid, and there were many milestones that were passed on the way to where the technology is currently at today.

The first hearing instruments

You have to go all the way back to the 17th century to find the very first hearing instrument. Of course, what was used back then bears little to no resemblance to the hearing aids we use today. But the one thing they have in common is their purpose: to allow the user to hear more clearly. The first instrument was an ear trumpet, often made from animal horns but sometimes metal too. They came in a variety of shapes and sizes and, of course, had to be held to the ear when in use.

The 1867 invention of the telephone was an important first step

One thing that not everyone knows is that the invention of the telephone was one of the most significant steps towards the eventual development of hearing aids as we know them today. The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1867. The reason why this is significant is that the telephone used components that for the first time were able to control the frequency, volume and distortion of sounds. These are all things that would later be vital in the creation of the first real hearing aids a few decades later.

Miller Reese Hutchison invented the first electronic hearing aid in 1898

It was in 1898 that the very first electronic hearing aid was invented and the man behind it was Miller Reese Hutchison. This first hearing aid was a step closer to what we recognize as hearing aids today, but it was still obviously very different. The technology behind it used an electric current to amplify weak signals, allowing the user to hear things louder. At this moment in time, however, this device was not something that was available to the general public, so most people with hearing impairments didn’t see any change yet.

Commercially available hearing aids arrived in 1913

For people with hearing impairments, the change came when the first commercially available hearing aids arrived in 1913. However, this was not quite as revolutionary as you might imagine due to the large nature of these hearing aids. They were far too heavy and large to be used in a natural or comfortable way. In 1920, vacuum tube hearing aids were invented, allowing sounds to be turned into electronic signals, these signals were then amplified for the user. This was a big step in the right direction.

Transistors were invented in 1948

During the immediate aftermath of the second world war, there were many huge advances in technology, and it was no different for hearing aids. With the invention of the transistor in 1948, the future of hearing aids as we know it began to take shape. They were small, reduced distortion issues and demanded less battery power. All of these things were influential in starting to develop hearing aids that were small enough to be practical and usable. The 1970s later saw the development of microprocessors and other components that made miniaturization a reality.

Analog to digital

It was in 1996 that hearing aids took a huge leap forward as they transitioned from analog technology to digital. New features were being developed constantly thereafter and personal customization for the user became the norm. The development of hearing aids is not something that has reached an end point however. There’s plenty more to come from the technology and many ways in which the user experience can be built upon and improved in the years and decades ahead of us.

To explore your hearing aid options, contact Baker Audiology & Hearing Aids

If you want to learn more about the modern hearing aids that are on offer today, you can get in touch with us today. Baker Audiology & Hearing Aids can help you find the hearing aid that’s right for you, so call us on 605-306-5756 if you want to get in touch and speak to a member of our team. We’ll then take things from there.


 


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