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Hearing Aid history

Page history last edited by sralle01@... 12 years, 8 months ago

Hearing aid history...


Hearing Aids - History

From Jamie Berke,

Your Guide to Deafness.

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From Bulky to Invisible

Somewhere up in the attic, there is something that really belongs in a museum. What is it? It is my old body-worn hearing aid from early childhood. Body aids were already on their way out at the time that I had to wear them. However, when I was a child hearing aid technology had not yet advanced enough for profoundly deaf children to be able to wear behind the ear aids.

Hearing Aid Progress

Hearing aids began crudely as large trumpets and horns. Later, they became transitor radio style devices but were still bulky and uncomfortable to wear. Next, they became smaller behind the ear devices (BTEs), still available today. Then they shrank again, becoming in the ear and in the canal devices. Some modern hearing aids are even implantable and therefore invisible.

Attitudes Towards Hearing Aids

Hearing aids have been around for decades, yet they were given a bad rap from the very start. Instead of being viewed as the useful devices they were meant to be, they became the butt of jokes. In some of my old Little Lotta comic books from the sixties and seventies, Little Lotta's grandfather uses a horn-shaped trumpet style hearing aid and keeps saying "what?"

Today's modern hearing aids get more respect --- or do they? I still hear of many hard of hearing older people refusing to try hearing aids because they don't want to "look old" or "feel old." They deny their hearing loss even though today's hearing aids are so small you can not see them.


Preserving Hearing Aid History


Some hearing aid manufacturers have recognized the importance of preserving hearing aid history. For example, Oticon has an Eriksholm Museum in Denmark for showcasing old hearing aids. The museum has the ancient trumpet style hearing aids, a transitor style hearing aid (like the body aids that I wore as a child), and early behind-the-ear aids.

In addition, in New York City, you can visit the hearing aid museum at the League for the Hard of Hearing. More than 50 hearing aids from the 1880s to the 1980s are showcased at the League. The decorated silver ear trumpet is particularly fascinating.

Plus, the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery in Alexandria, Virginia has a virtual museum, "Hearing Aids Through the Ages," online with pictures of ear trumpets, a hearing aid timeline, and a bibliography of resources. The association's John Q. Adams Center also has a collection of antique hearing aids.

If you have an old hearing aid (or one of the very first cochlear implants) that is too old to be of interest to any hearing aid banks, you might want to consider donating it to one of the existing hearing aid museums, helping to preserve hearing aid history.

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