As long as people have been able to hear, there have been hearing problems. As a result, many have looked to find ways to fix or modify their hearing throughout human history. It was not until the last two centuries that hearing aids truly evolved into their modern form. To take a look at the history of these devices, we will examine several steps along the path to the modern hearing aid. After all, each of these early hearing aids shows just how crucial it is to integrate new technology into hearing aid devices.
The Ear Trumpet
This hearing aid is about as complex as it sounds. Any horn shaped implement that could be put into the ear with a flared end was able to act as a hearing aid. These ear trumpets would be fit into the ear and then collect acoustic sounds form the environment and channel it into the inner ear. While it was a bit crude, it was still a very effective means of hearing for about a thousand years. These were even built into furniture for the wealthy throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, when they started to be phased out.
Carbon Hearing Aids
One of the most complicated forms of hearing aids of the late 19th century was the carbon hearing aid. These hearing aids were much too large to be taken with you, and required using several expensive and complicated pieces of equipment. These included a large battery, a diaphragm connected to a carbon microphone, and a magnetic receiver. The listener would press their ear to the diaphragm and as the microphone picks up sound, carbon would shoot across the diaphragm to generate noise. With the pieces of carbon hitting the diaphragm, louder noises would be made to allow the individual to hear low sounds.
Of course this came with a variety of different drawbacks such as not being able to move around with the hearing aid. It was also very low sound quality that was produced, and it could only pick up some frequencies. Still it was a step forward in the world of hearing aid technology.
Vacuum Tube Hearing Aids
One of the final types of hearing aids to be developed before transistor and digital hearing aids were vacuum tubes. They were developed during the 1920s and used telephone technology of the time in order to make them work well. They were only seven pounds, so they could be taken and used on the go. Essentially, these devices were telephones that gathered sound from the environment, turned the sound into electric impulses, and then fed it loudly through the receiver for the individual using a vacuum tube. Not only was this important for people with hearing loss, but it drew many researchers and investors into hearing aid technology.