Hearing Aid Evolution – An Imagined Retrospective
As a hearing aid wearer, I’ve always been fascinated with the evolution of the hearing aid. The device has come a long way in just a few hundred years. With technology evolving so fast, who the heck knows what hearing technology will be like a few hundred years from now.
That’s why I was so excited to have the chance to write actual reviews of hearing aids from the past as part of a hearing aid evolution retrospective. Don’t ask me how I came across this information. I’ll just say it involved a time machine and an assortment of fake mustaches.
The First Ever Hearing Aid
Review date: Roughly 41,324 BC (Upper Paleolithic time period)
For hundreds of thousands of years, hard of hearing individuals lived their entire lives unable to hear and therefore understand their fellow proto-human brethren. But in the mountainous region of East Timor, where cave drawings have been the rage, a small group of forward-thinking individuals are bringing into the world the first modern hearing aid. “Cup of Hand Behind Ear” is an innovative new solution to hearing improvement.
“‘Cup of Hand Behind Ear’ is an innovative new solution to hearing improvement.”
It works by lifting one’s arm and placing a bent hand behind one’s ear. When cupped behind the ear, the hand acts as an extended scoop to improve sound collection. The invention works with either right hand to the right ear, or left hand to the left ear. Cross-cupping (i.e. right hand to left ear) has not proved to be effective in clinical tests. In addition, initial reports show that cupping both hands over both ears can double the hearing improvement (more testing needs to be done to confirm these results). Hundreds of Homo Sapiens throughout the region, as well as some Neanderthal individuals, are enjoying enhanced hearing with this futuristic invention. Experts of the day say that this is the pinnacle of hearing aid technology.
Pros: Looks natural, supports better understanding others around the campfire, enhanced ability to hear “watch out for that saber tooth tiger!” when out on a hunt.
Cons: Discomfort and cramping after holding hand behind ear for long periods of time, inability to clap or juggle while cupping one hand behind ear.
Review date: September 12, 1492, Yorke Township
From peasants to royalty, cow horns have been incredibly popular with the hard of hearing. But recently, a young stonemason came across a bison animal horn in a pile of rubble. He brought it home to his grandmother who was elderly and challenged with hearing loss. After the grandmother pranced around the village with her new Bison Horn Assisted Hearing Device, word started to spread around the huts that a brand new hearing aid was on the scene.
The bison horn is slightly larger than the cow horn, enabling hard of hearing individuals to hear better at community gatherings. Due to the challenges of obtaining and manufacturing bison horns, they’ve become a rare and highly sought after item. Just another reason why they continue to grow in popularity, especially with the royal crowd. Experts of the day say that this is the pinnacle of hearing aid technology.
Pros: Increases hearing capacity by “several” decibels, can bring out one’s “wild” side.
Cons: Difficulty performing work related activities while holding horn to ear, possibility of making a bison angry.
Review date: March 27, 1822, London
The Ear Trumpet has been like music to the ears for the hard of hearing. This innovative breakthrough in hearing aid technology collects sound waves and directs them into the afflicted ear, giving individuals a new and exciting way to improve conversations. Made of sheet metal, Ear Trumpets come in two exciting colors—brass and silver. Some are even decorated with images of flowers or winged creatures. While many users describe themselves as “feeling fancy” when wearing the devices, others want to conceal the trumpet, therefore decorating them with ribbons, lace, or leather to disguise their purpose.
Famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven is the first celebrity endorser of the Ear Trumpet. Critics have questioned his ability to play the piano and simultaneously write music while holding the Ear Trumpet to his ear. Word out of the Beethoven camp is that his “assistants” hold two devices to his ears, freeing his arms to identify the perfect notes for his compositions. If it’s good enough for Beethoven, it’s good enough for the rest of us. Experts of the day say this is the pinnacle of hearing aid technology.
Pros: Increases hearing capacity by “several” decibels, enhanced shoulder muscle development due to holding the device to ear, can act like a musician without any musical training (be like Beethoven).
Cons: Bulkiness, difficulty walking through doors while “wearing” the device, does not work as a musical instrument.
Electronic Hearing Aid
Review date: June 11, 1904, St. Louis
Thomas Edison. Alexander Graham Bell. Miller Reese Hutchison. Three names history will forever remember. The inventor of the first ever electronic hearing aid, Hutchison is bringing his “Akoulallion” to the masses at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, MO in the U.S. Critics don’t seem to know what to make of the name, nor can they pronounce it. But he insists it makes sense.
Worn around the neck, the device consists of a heavy box, visible wires, and a gigantic battery (which might or might not strain the neck) that lasts two full hours. The device has been called “the best electrical aid for the semi-deaf yet devised.” Experts of the day say this is the pinnacle of hearing aid technology.
Pros: Electronics on the ear makes you feel “futuristic,, and makes sounds slightly louder.
Cons: Bulky batteries, buzzing sound, neck strain, electric shocks.
Marvel Digital Hearing Aid
Review date: October 23, 2018
Hearing aid manufacturer Phonak has announced its new Audeo Marvel receiver-in-the-canal hearing aid, bringing binaural sound to virtually any form of Bluetooth streaming. The device is designed with new levels of binaural sound quality and universality. Users find the rich sound quality “sounds very natural.”
The device features better processing and noise reduction, reducing cognitive load, and rechargeable technology for “a full day of streaming.” Other hearing aid manufacturers are racing to keep up with Phonak’s innovative approach to hearing health, sometimes muttering to themselves “We should just give up.” Experts say that this is the pinnacle of hearing aid technology.
Pros: Natural sound, amazing features, streaming of music and phone calls, and much more.
Cons: Streaming phone calls directly into the Marvels and speaking out loud “to no one” while grocery shopping might evoke strange looks from others.
Hearing Device of the Future (Author’s note)
When I set the Time Machine forward to the year 2134, I found a world much different than our current one. I was thrilled to find that people seemed to be happy, supportive, and in great shape. There are still a variety of cultures and various social differences, but everyone seems to appreciate each other. There’s even a worldwide physical fitness routine that pretty much everyone participates in. The other surprising thing is that everyone wears devices on their ears. I’m talking everyone, from babies to teens to adults to the elderly. The world has become so noisy, and human hearing capacity so limited, that everyone communicates via these high tech devices. This communication device proved critical for stopping the robot apocalypse of 2099, as well as stemming climate change.
The communication devices not only come in an assortment of shapes and sizes, depending on your personal style, but they also illuminate with different colors across the spectrum. These colors are used to communicate one’s personal moods, which helps support better understanding of others and improve conversations. There are no more language barriers as the devices automatically translate languages in real-time. In addition, these “wearables” track every aspect of the human body, from heart rate to brain health to the number of blinks per minute. It’s important to note they aren’t called “hearing aids” any longer. They aren’t an aid or an accessory. They are simply a part of human life, so much so that experts say this is the pinnacle of technology.
What do you think the future of hearing aids will look like?
AUTHOR DETAILS – Pete Fulford
Pete is a writer, storyteller, and humorist living with his wife and two boys in beautiful Portland, Oregon. In 2004, he was diagnosed with high frequency hearing loss. Today, he proudly wears Alpine White Phonak Audeo Marvel hearing aids, which not only allow him hear better, but help him look cutting-edge and cool. He enjoys streaming jazz, books, and podcasts into his ears throughout the day.