Hearing aids date back all the way to the late 1500s, in a book titled Natural Magick. In this book, the author discusses wooden hearing aids carved into the shapes of animal ears that have superior hearing. Hearing aids have changed dramatically over the course of 500 years.
17th and 18th Centuries
In the 1600s and 1700s, hearing aids often consisted of a long, narrow “trumpet”-like tube, shaped like a long funnel. The technology worked by gathering amplified sound at one end of the funnel and channeling it directly to the ear canal. These hearing aids were fabricated out of common metals as well as animal horn and sea shell. Although these hearing aids were somewhat effective, they were extremely inconvenient to carry around for daily use.
During the 1800s, people began to conceal hearing aids. Hearing aids were still large, but became fashion accessories integrated with hats and collars. However, hearing aids tended to be very exclusive to royalty and the upper class. Some royalty had hearing aids built into their chairs.
The most dramatic hearing aid development occurred throughout the 1900s due to the discovery of electricity. Early 1900 hearing aids consisted of a battery and microphone worn around the neck. However, they were much too heavy.
In the mid-1900s, batteries were miniaturized and made more portable. With the invention of silicon transistors, hearing aid function increased as they shrunk in size without losing sound amplification. Eventually, hearing aids stopped being worn around the neck and were worn behind or around the ears. However, these hearing aids tended to amplify all sounds equally, including harsh wind sounds and background noise.
Modern Hearing Aids
Today’s hearing aids have come a long way from the “magic” hearing aids of the 1500s. Hearing aids today are lighter and more powerful than ever before. With developments in software and electrical engineering, hearing aids now filter out background noise and are low profile.