The Evolution of Hearing Aid Technology

The evolution of hearing aids has come a long way. If you think your hearing aids will be anything like your parents, think again. The first mention of hearing aids was in 1588 when they reportedly carved wood into the shape of animals thought to have superior hearing to humans.


In the 17th and 18th-century ear trumpets were introduced and later incorporated into fashion to help disguise these bulky devices.


Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, patented in 1876, was the first electrical device transmitting speech. People with hearing loss reported they could understand speech better through the telephone than in person.

Thomas Edison had hearing loss and did not find the telephone helpful. For this reason, he set out to improve the device. In 1878, Edison introduced a new transmitter that amplified the electrical signal. Other inventors tried to improve the telephone for hearing aid use but overall the amplification of the telephone was too weak.

The first electrical hearing aid with significant power was invented in 1920 by Western Electric Co. and Lee De Forest. Unfortunately, they were as big as filing cabinets and weighed more than 220 pounds. Four years later the model was re-designed to weigh 8 pounds and fit into a small wooden box.

Aurex Corp. created the first wearable hearing aid in 1938 but the device was still large and required a separate wearable battery. World War II brought the invention of smaller batteries. Soon after this invention, the race for smaller hearing aids was on.

In the late 1950s, Otarion Listener became the first hearing aid worn entirely at the ear. The hearing aid was disguised in the temple piece of a pair of eyeglasses. In 1964, Zenith Radio came out with the first behind-the-ear hearing aid.

The first fully digital hearing aids were introduced in 1996 and programmable models in 2000. Old hearing aids were bulky, had power-to-size limitations, and often the wearer reported annoying whistling or feedback.

Today’s hearing aids are smart enough to turn on a coffee pot with the closing of a battery door. They can be programmed by your audiologist from the comfort of your home. You can customize your hearing aid settings and make adjustments from your cell phone. Want to stream movies, music, or phone calls through your hearing aids? No problem! There are both battery and rechargeable options and they are nearly invisible.

Come into Denison Hearing today to trial today’s newest hearing aid technology.


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