The History of Hearing Aids

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. 


Understanding the Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a surprisingly common thing experienced by people. An estimated 48 million people in the United States experience hearing loss. However, you may be surprised to learn that there are a variety of different types of hearing loss. These types vary depending on the area contributing to the hearing loss. Let’s take a look at these types and what they mean. 


Conductive Hearing Loss


Conductive hearing loss is caused when there is a problem that prevents sounds from getting through the outer or middle ear. There can be a variety of things that prevent sound from penetrating inside the ear. You may have experienced this when having a cold that results in fluid in your ear canal. 


Other causes include ear infections, often to the otitis media. Another problem can involve the Eustachian tube which connects the middle ear and nose. This tube serves to drain fluid, but if it functions incorrectly, it can result in conductive problems. Several other issues such as earwax, small benign tumors, or objects can cause problems. 


Sensorineural Hearing Loss


If someone suffers from sensorineural hearing loss, the problem is related to the inner ear. This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss as there often is not a treatment to repair this form of hearing. It often occurs when there is inner ear damage that interferes with the ability of the nerves to transmit sounds from your inner ear to your brain. 


Sensorineural hearing loss has some different causes. For example, exposure to loud noise, explosions, or severe blows to the head can cause this type of damage. Various illnesses or exposure to toxic substances can cause sensorineural loss. Aging is also a very common reason for this type of hearing loss. 


Mixed Hearing Loss


As can be assumed from the name, mixed hearing loss refers to issues relating to both the inner ear as well as the middle or outer ear. In reality, anything that causes conductive hearing loss may also lead to a mixed diagnosis. 


For example, if you frequently encounter loud noises, you can get sensorineural hearing loss. If you then get fluid trapped in your ear, this can make symptoms much worse and lead to mixed hearing loss. With the ear being a complex organ, many things can affect it. 


Final Thoughts


Regardless of what type of hearing loss you may be experiencing, the staff at Southwest Hearing Clinic are happy to assist you. We provide free comprehensive exams and are happy to help you identify the best hearing solution for your specific situation. By providing highly individualized treatment, you can find the best option to help you hear more clearly.