We are always announcing new developments and improvements in the hearing aid world – and this isn’t too difficult to do, given the many exciting changes technology brings us on a daily basis. While there is certainly much to be celebrating and perhaps even more to anticipate, it can be eye-opening to take a look back at the early hearing aids.
Considering the practical invisibility of today’s aids, you may be surprised that they started out so bulky, large and obtrusive. Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison somewhat accidentally developed hearing improvements through the telephone, but they were so minimal that users could not find them particularly helpful. The vacuum tube is perhaps one of the most famous stages of the hearing aid: Lee De Forest manufactured it in 1907 – just over 100 years ago. The tube amplified sound, but it was still impractical; it was very large and weighed 220 pounds! This is a far cry from the near weightless aids we have now. The next leap came in 1927, when a (significantly smaller) box was made for those with hearing difficulties. Users had to hold the adhered receiver up to their ears – once more disrupting daily lives and social situations. We can see where the negative misconceptions about hearing aids have their roots.
1938 marked the year the first viable hearing aid was created; still, its wearer had to deal with a battery pack strapped to his or her leg! The 40s and 50s brought along similar, slight advancements, but users still longed for less aid visibility. During the latter half of the 50s, however, progress was made through aids which had their electronic connections concealed along a pair of eyeglasses. Check out The Otarion Listener here.
The 1960s and Zenith Radio brought along the behind-the-ear (BTE) aids we are now familiar with. Of course, these early models were still quite bulky, despite their portability and convenience. The technological discoveries of the 80s and 90s, along with the advancements in computers, ultimately paved the way to the millennial hearing aids we know and love for their practicality, quality, and near-invisibility.