Lesson 17 – The History of Hearing Aids

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Read About The History of Hearing Aids


Read the vocabulary terms to understand the reading better.

Digital technology is the same technology used in computers and cell phones

An ear trumpet is a tube that is narrow at one end and wide at the other end that a person speaks into.

A hearing aid is a small electronic device that can amplify and change sound.

Hearing loss is when a person has trouble hearing or understanding some or all sounds.

Tone is a musical or vocal sound with reference to its pitch, quality, and strength.

The History of Hearing Aids

Some people find that they do not hear as well as they used to. This problem is called hearing loss. Many people over the age of 60 have hearing loss, but sometimes younger people have to cope with this problem.

Throughout history, scientists and inventors have developed different types of hearing aids to help people hear better. Let’s take a look at how hearing aids have changed over time.

The Ear Trumpet

One of the first hearing aids was called an ear trumpet. It was a tube that was narrow at one end and wide at the other end. A person put the narrow end against one ear, and people spoke into the wide end.

Ear trumpets started to become popular in the late 1700s. People were still using them in the early 1900s. Ear trumpets did help people hear a little better, but new inventions that worked much better would soon come along.

Electronic Hearing Aids

The first electronic hearing aids were invented at the beginning of the 1900s.

They were large boxes that weighed several pounds, with an earpiece that was connected to the box by a wire. These hearing aids were too large and heavy for people to carry around with them.

In the 1950s, scientists created much smaller hearing aids that could fit in a shirt pocket. These hearing aids still used a wire to connect the box to the earpiece. Before long, scientists invented hearing aids small enough to fit behind the ear. The invention of very small batteries helped make behind-the-ear hearing aids possible.

Hearing aid, 1922

Digital Hearing Aids

The newest hearing aids use digital technology. That is the same technology used in computers and cell phones. Digital technology allowed scientists to create hearing aids that are small enough to fit inside the ear. Some hearing aids are small enough to fit deep inside the ear so they are almost impossible to see.

Today’s digital hearing aids can do some remarkable things:

  • Adjust to changes in volume: The hearing aid automatically adjusts itself so loud sounds are not made too loud, but soft sounds are made louder.

  • Adapt to background noise: Imagine your friend is speaking to you in a crowded, noisy room. If your hearing aid makes your friend’s voice and all the background noise louder, you might still have trouble hearing your friend. Today’s hearing aids can make your friend’s voice louder without making the background noise louder.

  • Help people with different types of hearing loss: Some people have problems hearing low tones such as the sound of tuba, or high tones such as the sound of a flute. Today’s hearing aids can be adjusted so they only make the tones louder that a person has trouble hearing.

To learn more about how hearing aids work, watch the video by Phonak on Youtube.

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