Who Invented Hearing Aids?
Hearing loss is an issue that is as old as the human race, and for most of history, there was little that people could do about it.
In the 16th century, a Spanish monk, Pedro Ponce, taught a deaf man how to read, speak, write, and do mathematics, which was the first time that people realised that being deaf didn’t mean people couldn’t do other things.
This was the beginning of the journey towards helping people hear, but who invented hearing aids?
The first hearing device was an ear trumpet – which was invented in the 17th century. It was commercially produced in the 18th century by Frederick Rein.
After Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, the technology was available to control different aspects of sounds, such as distortion, frequency, and loudness.
Then in 1898, Miller Reese Hutchison invented the first hearing aid. He created this device using an electric current to amplify signals so that a person with hearing loss could hear.
History and Development of Hearing Aids
After Miller Reese Hutchison invented the first hearing aid, work on refining it and making it available to people continued.
The first commercially manufactured hearing aids were created in 1913, but they were large and bulky.
These first devices were designed to amplify sounds. As work continued, vacuum tube hearing aids were created in 1920.
With this new technology, the tubes took speech, turned it into electric signals, and then amplified the signal.
Lots of new technology was developed during World War II – one such technology that benefited the development of hearing aids was miniaturisation. In 1948, the transistor was invented, and it could replace vacuum tubes in the hearing aids so that they were smaller and used less power.
The next major change occurred in the 1970s. The invention of the microprocessor opened the door to make the hearing aids even smaller, and multi-channel amplitude compression brought digital technology to the hearing aids.
After this time, hearing aids advanced quickly. The first all-digital hearing aids were produced in the 1980s, and in 2010 Bluetooth hearing aids were developed.
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Today, hearing aids are battery-powered, and they are small enough to wear behind your ear or in it. They can help you hear in both quiet and noisy environments, and they have certain parts in common.
There’s a microphone to pick up sounds, an amplifier to make them louder, and a receiver to send the sounds into your ear. Your hearing can suffer for several reasons, including disease, ageing, loud noises, or medications.
Nowadays, another option available to people is rechargeable hearing aids. Instead of having to get rid of your old batteries and have to replace them every time they die, you can simply charge them, meaning that rechargeable hearing aids are more environmentally friendly. Rechargeables are also safer for children and pets, as the batteries are more likely to be out of reach. Not only are rechargeable hearing aids better for the planet, but they’re also more convenient for the user – who no longer has to worry about purchasing more batteries – they can just put their hearing aids on charge.
How to Find Out What Type of Hearing Aid You Need
The best way to find out what type of hearing aid you need is by working with an audiologist. This type of professional performs a hearing test and identifies, assesses, and manages issues with hearing, balance and associated disorders.
They can help patients of all ages. Audiologists select, fit, and dispense hearing aids. They also help you prevent hearing loss by educating you and helping you with protective hearing devices.
The two basic types of hearing aid are in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids and behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids.
ITE hearing aids go in the ear canal, and you usually have them custom fit after having an impression taken of your ear canal. They come in skin-tone colours to blend with your ear, and some go deeper in the ear than others.
BTE hearing aids usually sit on top of the outer ear or behind it, and they have tubing that sends the sound into the ear canal with a custom ear mould.
Both come with batteries that need replacement relatively often – between three and twenty days, and many come with rechargeable batteries.
With ITE hearing aids, there are two main types. The first is invisible-in-the-canal (IIC), and the second is completely-in-the-canal (CIC).
These styles are the smallest that you can get, and they are the least noticeable to other people. They work well for people who have mild to moderate loss of hearing.
These hearing aids are discreet, and they have good sound quality. However, they are susceptible to moisture damage, and they can be difficult to insert because they are so small.
Some models are a little larger yet still in the ear, and they are still discreet, but they usually have more features and longer battery life.
Another type of hearing aid is the low-profile hearing aid. They are available in different styles, including aids that may fill the entire ear bowl and lower-profile designs.
They are larger, so they can have directional microphones and manual controls, including a volume wheel or a push-button for changing programs. They are easy to insert and remove, and they often have connectivity to wireless devices.
There are also several types of behind-the-ear hearing aids. The receiver-in-the-ear (RITE), also called the receiver-in-canal (RIC), is an open fit hearing aid that has its speaker on an insertable ear dome.
The microphone and processor sit behind the ear – while the speaker is in the ear. It often comes with a rechargeable battery, and it often has wireless connectivity to devices.
Another type is behind-the-ear with an earmold, and it can fit any type of hearing loss. It often has wireless connectivity, and the earmold can be custom fitted.
It is less susceptible to moisture damage than other models, and the only real drawback is that it is more visible than other hearing aids.
Hearing aids were invented in 1898 by Miller Reese Hutchison, and they have come a long way since that time. Technology has changed drastically, and today’s hearing aids are subtle and effective.
If you have trouble hearing, you can have a hearing assessment with an audiologist to determine how hearing aids can help. There are different styles, and each has its benefits and drawbacks.
When you consult with an audiologist, they will be sure to find the best hearing aids for your needs.
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