You would have used an ‘ear trumpet’ created from hollowed animal horns, sea shells or glass if you had hearing loss in the 13th century. Italian Pietro Amiani described a hearing aid in his book Geometria as a “desirable ear trumpet that had a sophisticated parabolic design”.
More powerful ear trumpets were developed by the 17th and 18th century. Beethoven reportedly used an ear trumpet when his hearing began to wane. By the 1800s, hearing-aids were less conspicuous and hidden in hats, headbands, clothing, hair and beards.
In the 1900s the design of hearing aids was further improved after the invention of electricity and the telephone, which provided the foundation for the electronic hearing aid. A carbon microphone amplified sound using a weak signal, while electricity boosted that sound.
Hearing aid designs improve
Hearing aids developed further, thanks to the 3-element vacuum tube invented by Lee De Forest in 1907. Using this technology, US company Western Electric Co. manufactured a hearing an aid in 1920 that provided 70dB of amplification. But at 100kg and the size of a filing cabinet, these early modern hearing aids were not portable or lightweight. By 1924, Western Electric developed a new model weighing 4kg, and the electronics all fitted into a small wooden box.
In the 1950s, the next innovation was transistor hearing aids. These silicone devices had an on/off switch, to conserve the battery. They could be worn more discreetly behind and in the ear. The analogue technology that was used then is still used in today’s hearing aids.
In the 1990s, hearing aids started using digital signal processing. They were much smaller, offered improved sound quality, and better noise filtering and amplification capabilities.
Two types of hearing aids
Hearing aids continue to develop into smaller, more powerful and lighter weight devices. The two types of hearing aids are those that fit in the ear and those that fit behind the ear.
Those that fit in the ear are small, discreet, easy to manage and shaped to fit your ear. They are ideal for mild to moderate hearing loss. Hearing aids that fit behind the ear provide powerful sound. They are prescribed for moderate to severe hearing loss.
Once we have tested your hearing, we can prescribe and fit a hearing aid that will best suit your needs.
Want your hearing tested? Need a solution for hearing loss?