The hearing aids of today are small, easy to use, and improve the user’s natural quality of life. Of course, this wasn’t always the case. The first hearing devices of the 1600s and 1700s were large and bulky. Shaped like large horns (or “ear trumpets”), they would funnel sound into the ear canal from the wide end to the narrow end, which was placed into the ear.

The Evolution of Hearing Devices and Styles

1800-1900: A Great Improvement

During the late Renaissance and Victorian periods, etiquette was everything, and these large devices were deemed to be socially unacceptable. With the advent of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, hearing aids became more available for the general population, and they also became less cumbersome. Bell’s carbon transmission technology enabled the production of smaller, electronic devices. These were worn around the neck, and included a battery. Although similar models of hearing aids were worn up until the 1990s, they continued to get smaller and smaller in size.

1800-1900: A Great Improvement

1900-1990: Miniaturization

The progression of hearing aid technology was truly put in motion by the advent of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. Hearing aids became a widely available resource, and since large, bulky hearing devices were deemed a social embarrassment, Bell’s technology enabled the production of smaller, electronic devices.  Battery miniaturization enabled hearing aids to be pocket- or purse-sized.

Present-Day Hearing Aids

 

Present-Day Hearing Aids

In the 20th century, new digitalized technology provided opportunities for further research about hearing loss, as well as hearing aid design and device options for the wearer. Digital circuitry and programming allowed sound to be amplified and adjusted as needed. Into the 21st century, hearing aids are nearly the size of your fingertip, are often the color of natural skin, and are self-adjusting devices, so that the wearer can focus less on adjustment and more on everyday living.

1900-1990: Miniaturization