The history and origin of the hearing aid goes further back than you may imagine. Being able to hear is something most of us take for granted, but for those of you that have trouble with hearing, you’ve certainly learned to appreciate it.
The hearing aid device was developed essentially to do what it sounds like. It helps aid someone in hearing better. The first literary reference to a hearing aid device was by Homer where he spoke of a special speaking trumpet in Iliad.
The First Man Made Hearing Aid
The first known man made hearing aid device was actually called an auditory tube or an ear trumpet. This device was made by the early Greek scientist Alcmaeon of Croton in 550 B.C.
This type of hearing aid wasn’t really developed to help aid in hearing, but was more focused on helping people hear better at long distances. They were commonly used by folks that were out at sea during war times as well as during hunting expeditions.
Sometime around 300 B.C. ancient Greeks imported seashells into Phoenicia that were used as ear trumpets. These shells went through a process of hardening and were then covered in a coat of paint. The paint was really nothing more than a marketing scheme to make them more presentable.
The Modern Ear Trumpet
Bevan of London is known as the first British developer of the ear trumpet, made in 1715. Then by 1790 Alessandro Volta, the maker of the electric battery, made a discovery. He found that the human auditory system was capable of being stimulated by electric current. This discovery came as quite a shock, because he found this out by inserting metal rods into his own ear and gave himself an electric shock of 50 volts!
According to Volta he heard sounds similar to that of thick boiling soup after receiving the shock.
The Modern Hearing Aid
The modern hearing aid was developed on a principal used by earlier developers. These early hearing aids used a carbon microphone which was constructed by the Dictograph Company of the United States back in 1898.
It wasn’t until 1954 that the hearing aid became small enough to be built into glasses frames, this eventually led to the “in the ear” digital hearing aid that was introduced in 1995.
Cochlear Implant Breakthrough
The first cochlear implant was done by Rod Saunders in Melbourne, Australia. But the true pioneer of this technology was Professor Graeme Clark during the 1970s.
Many people like to refer to the cochlear implant as the bionic ear, mainly because this procedure involves the device being implanted within the ear. But not everyone is a candidate for the cochlear implant, it is intended for those with extreme hearing problems.
Much like some of the earlier experiments in the development of the hearing aid, the cochlear implant works by stimulating the auditory nerves by way of electrical impulses. It wasn’t until 1984 that the FDA approved the first cochlear implant to be carried out in the United States.
Medical advances are constantly evolving and new technologies are always coming on the scene, so no telling where the hearing aid will be in the future. Who knows, eventually we may not even need the hearing aid, it may be a simple matter of an inner ear transplant.
Can you believe that hearing aid technology and research goes back to 550 B.C. ? I suppose that as long as man has been on this Earth there has always been research on how to repair or make them better.