Hearing aids have an intriguing history. There has always been a need to improve the hearing health for those who are hard of hearing. Thankfully, those in need of hearing aids in Omaha, NE, and elsewhere can now get the help they need. From ear trumpets to fully digital devices, the history of hearing aids shows how technology has only got better with time.
The ear trumpet is exactly what it sounds like. It was a tube-shaped device created to funnel sound into the ear. These were large devices made of wood, animal horns, snail shells or metal. These devices date back to 1634; we know this because Jean Leurechon, a French priest and mathematician, mentioned it in his book Recreations Mathématiques during this time. Ear trumpets were custom-made for the user; personalization was important for each user to get the most out of their ear trumpet just like hearing aids today.
First hearing aid
The first hearing aid was introduced in 1898 by Miller Reese Hutchison. Inventors knew they needed to create something better than the ear trumpet for those with hearing difficulties. The result was a device called the Akouphone, which was portable and used a carbon transmitter that could turn weak sound signals into stronger ones. Although functional, the device was heavy and consisted of many components. It was also expensive, so not many people could afford to use it.
Vacuum tube hearing aid
In 1920, the vacuum tube hearing aid was invented by the Naval engineer Earl Hanson, who patented it as the Vactuphone. It used a telephone transmitter to convert speech into amplified electric signals. Competition then arose for inventors and engineers to greatly improve hearing aids; devices became smaller and more wearable throughout the 1930s. However, batteries and the microphone still had to be worn around the neck, which made every conversation for users seem news station reporter-like.
Transistor hearing aid
In 1948, the transistor hearing aid was introduced to the public. This device was immensely popular, as it was smaller, used less battery power and had less sound distortion. However, the lack of testing with these devices before people purchased them caused the devices to die only a few weeks after purchase. The main culprit was dampness from body heat, so a protective coating and silicone transistor was added to improve it.
Microprocessor and compression hearing aids
In 1970, the invention of a microprocessor allowed for compression with hearing aids. The hearing aid became more modern and the functionality of hearing aids improved during this time. The researcher Edgar Villchur was passionate about improving hearing health for those who needed it. This device allowed for audio signals to be separated into frequency bands; making it so certain sounds could be amplified more and other sounds less.
High-speed processors and microcomputers
In the 1980s, the performance of hearing aids significantly improved when the City University of New York developed a hearing device that was all digital, worked in real-time and had an array of processing capabilities. The device was still a bit bulky as it had to hold a minicomputer, microprocessor and FM transmitter and receiver. Fast processing was an amazing invention, but it was very large and hard to be worn. Developers at the Central Institute for the Deaf worked to overcome this.
First fully digital hearing aid
The Nicolet Corporation was able to come up with a solution in 1987 when the first fully digital hearing aid hit the market. The new goal was to develop digital hearing aids that were also a commercial success. Major hearing aid companies soon introduced digital amplifiers, filters and limiters. Several hearing aid styles were also introduced.
High-tech hearing devices
Emerging technologies help the formation of high-tech hearing devices, hearing aids and earbuds. Many hearing aids now use Bluetooth connectivity, rechargeable batteries and more options for users. What’s also important to note is that they were smaller, sleeker and more functional.
Come see us for hearing aids in Omaha, NE
It’s cool to see how hearing aids have improved over time. As technology continues to evolve, hearing aids will only grow in their capabilities to help those with all different types of hearing loss. We know that each person has their own unique communication needs. If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss, contact us today to see if hearing aids in Omaha, NE can help you!