Hearing loss has been around much longer than just the 20th century. Loud noise is often a cause for the loss or damage of hearing, and hearing protection was not widespread until the 1860’s when the first patented earplugs were introduced. The earliest hearing aids were developed in the 17th century in the way of ear trumpets, which were long, horn-shaped tubes that were believed to amplify sound. They did not work very well but were still widely used until late in the 19th century when electronic hearing aids were first made available.
The first electronic hearing aid was made in 1898 and was called the Akouphone. It used similar technology to the telephone and amplified voices and sounds. These early electronic hearing aids were bulky and cumbersome and weren’t easy to transport. These devices would eventually be.
Technology kept advancing, and in the 1920s the Vactuphone was introduced to the hearing aid market. It turned the speech into electronic signals, which were then amplified after the signal was converted. This could only amplify sounds so much and they weren’t altogether effective. They were also bulky and not able to be worn, while some of the first wearable hearing aids made an appearance in the 1940s.
Hearing aids as we know them first made an appearance in the early 1950s.
They were known as transistors and utilized both the earlier vacuum tube and the new transistor technology. These aids utilized small carbon microphones that could be mounted to things like eyeglasses.
The first digital hearing aids were introduced in the 1960s but weren’t very usable until the 70s when the first microprocessors came out. The hearing aids at this point used older analog technology as well as the more modern microprocessor digital technology.
Finally, in 1982, the first digital, real-time hearing aid was introduced, and this laid the basis for what we currently use. Today, hearing aid technology has greatly advanced, and AI has been implemented to help you hear better, faster.