When were hearing aids invented?

It is nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact time when hearing aids were invented. Although, the history of invention is quite long and fascinating. 

From animal horns 1to modern ultra-sleek devices that we use today—the hearing device has come a long way through years of adaptation and experimentation to combat hearing loss.2

So, how about learning a brief history of hearing aids, some incredible facts related to inventions, and most importantly what the future holds? Let’s get started!

The invention of hearing aids

While you have plenty of hearing aid products,3 likes quality ones from HearCanada, it took a few centuries to come here.

The “Ear Trumpet was the first attempt to make hearing aids in the 17th century. They were made using materials like animal horns, glass, or irons to treat partial hearing loss. People used to fit this hearing trumpet around the rooms or furniture to amplify the sound. Later it turned out into a tube-shaped device to fit into the ear. 

However, many people believed electronic hearing aids 4were the first invention that came to light during the 19th century. Thanks to the many technophiles who invented the hearing aids, along with the telephone and microphone during that period. 

Improving communication and audiology was the main purpose of inventing the microphone and the telephone. In electric hearing aids, inventors also used the features like controlling the frequency, volume, or sound distortion.

The history of creating hearing aids

Miller Reese Hutchison was the inventor of the first electric hearing aid, also known as The Akouphone, in 1898. He used a carbon transmitter5 to make the hearing aid portable. The carbon transmitter can amplify the sound by capturing a weak signal and then converting it into a strong one. 

The carbon transmitter invented by Thomas Edition, who suffered from hearing loss himself, became the basis for carbon hearing aids.

Another hearing tool specialist during that time was Louis Weber. He was famous for creating Esha-Phonopher. This electrical design, in turn, inspired the development of the hearing aids manufacturing business Siemens in 1911.

The vacuum-tube hearing aid was the next one that arrived on the market in 1920—designed to amplify the sound by converting speech into the electrical signals. A further invention was the transistor hearing aid, manufactured by Bell Laboratories for the military investment in World War II. It became miniaturized, and portable hearing aids emerged.

A history of hearing aid development

Since the 1960s, with the advancement of technology, hearing aids also started to improve into modernization. The digital hearing aids became handier and smaller with the development of the microprocessor in 1970. Moreover, the hybrid hearing aid was also on the market in 1970, including both analog and digital components. 6

Widex was the developer of the first commercially successful hearing aids that came into the market in 1995 and used Silicon as a material to make the device more convenient. And by the 2000s, this device was fully customizable, and digital ones were the most popular and common ones. 

In recent times, digital hearing aids can regulate on their own. That means it can adjust to the environment user is in without any physical volume control. This programmable feature is fantastic for the wearers. 

What are the most common types of hearing aids in recent times?

In-the-ear (ITE) aids

It will fit into the outer part of your ear and is easy to use. 

On-the-ear or “Mini BTE aids

It will reduce the “plugged up” feeling in your ear canal.

Behind-the-ear (BTE) aids

This small tool rests behind the ear and connects to an earpiece via clear tubing. 

In-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) aids

It fits completely or partially into the ear canal.

Future of hearing aids

We all have come a long way since the invention of hearing aids from animal horns. So, what does the future hold for hearing aids? 

In this digital era, you can use your hearing aids to stream podcasts, music events, or even phone calls from iOS devices. By utilizing the audio processing power in smartphones, companies are creating apps to boost the performance of digital hearing devices. 7

Just like your smartwatch or smartphone, hearing aids are smart devices now, and you can connect them with other devices via Bluetooth.

Apart from that, the hearing device is also evolving in terms of its shape, size, and battery performance. With time, it will become more convenient and customizable. Hearing aids will benefit from artificial intelligence and digital assistance in the future.

  1. Sarli, Cathy C., et al. “19th-century camouflaged mechanical hearing devices.” Otology & neurotology 24.4 (2003): 691-698. ↩︎
  2. Saunders, Gabrielle H., and Susan E. Griest. “Hearing loss in veterans and the need for hearing loss prevention programs.” Noise and Health 11.42 (2009): 14-21. ↩︎
  3. Chen, Chih-Hao, et al. “Comparison of personal sound amplification products and conventional hearing aids for patients with hearing loss: A systematic review with meta-analysis.” EClinicalMedicine 46 (2022). ↩︎
  4. Taylor, R. S., S. Paisley, and A. Davis. “Systematic review of the clinical and cost effectiveness of digital hearing aids.” British Journal of Audiology 35.5 (2001): 271-288. ↩︎
  5. Bruns, Dieter. “Detection of transmitter release with carbon fiber electrodes.” Methods 33.4 (2004): 312-321. ↩︎
  6. Pelgrom, Marcel JM, and Marcel JM Pelgrom. Analog-to-digital conversion. Springer New York, 2013. ↩︎
  7. Tran, Nicole R., and Vinaya Manchaiah. “Outcomes of direct-to-consumer hearing devices for people with hearing loss: A review.” Journal of Audiology & Otology 22.4 (2018): 178. ↩︎

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Icy Health Editorial Team

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