Throughout history, there have been different forms of hearing instruments or devices that were used to amplify sounds. From the first hearing aid that was created in 1902 to today’s digital hearing aids, each of these devices was provided and fitted by hearing instrument specialists and audiologists. Manufacturers have produced master hearing aids. These referred to “machines that allowed dealers to select and try out different amplified responses”.
Hearing Aids from the 1920s
Hearing aids that were created in the 1920s utilized parts that were also found in telephones with batteries, which boosted the signal to amplify sounds. Boosters/amplifiers, microphones and receivers were all connected through cords, and the devices were worn on the body. Each element had different resonant frequencies and through assembling an appropriate combination, it was possible to establish an additive frequency response. Back then, companies typically only manufactured one model, so a large number of components were unnecessary. The leading hearing aid featured all of the main parts, and the dealer tested out various combinations on patients until they settled on something that worked.
Hearing Aids from the 1930s and Beyond
During the late 1930s, manufacturers made hearing aids by using vacuum tube technology that was developed for radios. This replaced the previous carbon telephone assemblies. The hearing aid devices continued to be worn on the body, with parts that were linked by cords. The amplification that these devices provided significantly improved. When vacuum tube-based, master hearing aids were produced, the process of testing out a variety of parts and components until the patient could hear their best was implemented. The hearing aid provider was able to order a hearing aid from the manufacturer with the same combination of components that the user preferred, but there wasn’t always a perfect correspondence of parts. This type of fitting, which could be viewed as a “substitution method” was used until transistor hearing aids became available.
In 1937, approximately 50,000 hearing aids were used in the U.S. In the late 1940s there were more than 100 large and small businesses that made hearing aids. Annual sales of hearing aids grew to more than 220,000 units by 1948.
Ear-level hearing aids and transistors appeared in the early 1950s. Transistorized master hearing aids were developed. The previous substitution method was no longer practiced. It was replaced by asking patients to listen to speech tests, as the hearing aid provider shifted between a variety of amplified responses at the different gain and output settings that were provided by the master hearing aid. Test results were used to choose a hearing aid from the provider’s inventory that matched up with the needs of each patient.
Computerized fitting software that is used today, is a modern version of the original master hearing aid. It’s a direct relative of the three computer-based systems that developed in the 1980s. When Starkey Hearing Technologies transformed the world of hearing aids by making custom hearing devices more popular, the performance of each hearing aid was chosen by proprietary computerized fitting algorithms that were established in the company.
Probe-tube microphone instruments were soon introduced, which used automated, computer-facilitated measurements and verified the fit by using prescriptive formulas. Hearing aids that could be programmed began making its way through the marketplace around the same time. Hearing instrument specialists who used computer-based programming devices were required to choose and manipulate the frequency-gain responses that were pre-installed within the hearing aids.
Even though the fittings that are used with master hearing aids have significantly evolved, one thing has stayed the same. A hearing aid fitter is still going to ask how it sounds and make sure that it is properly fitted. This shows how difficult it is to create an objective norm for an adequate hearing aid fitting, even with modern advances in fitting protocols.
If you, or a loved one, are in need of hearing aids, please get in touch with one of our hearing instrument specialists at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a free hearing test and consultation. We offer a variety of standard and customized hearing aids for your hearing needs.
This is a friendly reminder that our offices are only open by appointment and for essential visits at this time. Please call us prior to stopping by at one of our office locations. If you are in need of a hearing aid repair or cleaning, we kindly ask that you wait in your car, while wearing your mask, and place your hearing aids in a clean zip lock bag. We will come out to your car and retrieve them.
William Austin has been helping people hear for over 50 years. In order to formally recognize the work of Starkey Hearing Technologies, in 1984 he officially established Starkey Hearing Foundation.
“Alone we can’t do much. Together we can change the world.” - William Austin
Starkey Provides the Following:
Influential people, including Buzz Aldrin, Céline Dion, Elton John, Marlee Matlin, Steve Martin, President Ronald Reagan, Mother Theresa, Paul Simon, and many more have publicly supported Starkey Hearing Foundation.
If you are experiencing hearing loss, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a free hearing test and hearing aid trial. We offer Starkey’s Halo, Halo 2, Livio and Muse iQ.
Hearing loss can affect anyone of any age, race, or gender.
In honor of Women's History Month, here is a list of well-known women who had, or have, hearing loss and were able to live with it and manage it.
Juliette Gordon Low
The founder of Girl Scouts of America, Juliette Gordon Low, suffered from hearing loss throughout her adult life. When she was 29 years old, a grain of rice was thrown at her wedding, which caused a puncture in her eardrum. This resulted in her becoming deaf in one of her ears. She never allowed her hearing loss to deter her life. In 1912, she established the Girl Scouts organization.
Low encouraged girls with disabilities to be involved in society. She started offering opportunities to others like her and gave young girls more fulfillment in their lives.
American actor, comedian, author, and TV personality, Whoopi Goldberg has suffered from hearing loss over the years. She has shared the fact that she wears hearing aids, and pinpointed the cause of her hearing loss to listening to loud music.
After experiencing hearing loss first-hand, she became an advocate for Starkey Hearing Foundation, which provides free hearing aid devices to children across the globe. Goldberg shared her past experiences and encouraged others to be careful of overusing music listening devices.
In a 1985 interview with broadcast journalist Barbara Walters, American singer, actor, and filmmaker, Barbra Streisand revealed that she has suffered from tinnitus since she was 9-years-old. As a child, she would wrap scarves around her head in order to block the noise. She stated that she felt different and isolated from other kids. She lived with this secret for several years, until she got help from a medical professional.
Her successful career, as someone who suffers from tinnitus, is a great example of not allowing a hearing problem discourage her.
Halle Berry, one of the most famous actresses today, is partially deaf with 80% of hearing loss in one ear due to domestic violence.
She has devoted her time to speak out against domestic violence and supporting victims of abuse. Berry not only lives with hearing loss but uses her status to promote effective change.
These historic and modern women have been able to show everyone that it is possible to live with and well beyond hearing loss.
If you, or a loved one, suffer from hearing loss, please contact us for a free hearing test and consultation. We offer a variety of hearing aid devices for a wide range of hearing loss!
American Presidents and Hearing Aid Usage
When hearing aids first became available to the public, not many people wanted to publicize their hearing loss.
Even though there's still a stigma for those with hearing loss, wearing hearing aids has become normalized and supported by professionals and loved ones.
Many American presidents since Ronald Reagan have worn hearing aids in public. They wanted to expand their visibility and confront negative stereotypes about those who have hearing loss. Having a respected public figure who wears hearing aids can encourage others to get treated for their own hearing loss.
Hearing loss has affected American presidents since the country was established. Here's a list of ten presidents who are known to have hearing loss.
Our first president encountered sonorous sounds from the war prior to taking office. Records from the end of George Washington's life frequently indicated that he struggled to follow along in conversations.
Thomas Jefferson was fully aware that he had difficulty hearing and frequently wrote about it. He was most likely over-exposed to the sounds of hunting rifles. In 1819, he wrote that his hearing "is distinct in particular conversation, but confused when several voices crossed each other, which unfits me for the society of the table." This situation is known as the Cocktail Party Effect and has been studied by hearing aid designers for years.
Modern hearing aids filter out background noise from busy rooms by separating the sounds that come from the direction of your attention.
Following his final term in office, Theodore Roosevelt received surgery after his eardrum ruptured. When the abscess was extracted, Roosevelt lost hearing in his left ear.
Herbert Hoover suffered from age-related hearing loss. He was fitted with a pair of hearing aids. His hearing loss and cognitive abilities made it difficult for others to understand him as he aged. He openly used hearing aids, which encouraged others to get their hearing checked.
Even though Ronald Reagan served in the military, he lost some of his hearing from a blank that was shot from a gun. The blank fired off too close to him, and he lost hearing in one ear. At his inauguration in 1983, he became the first U.S. president to wear hearing aids in office. This helped push both sales and research.
After playing the saxophone for years, and due to his age, Bill Clinton experienced noise-induced hearing loss. He wears nearly invisible, in-the-canal hearing aids. To this day, he encourages hearing aid usage and focuses on the importance of getting a hearing test.
Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush
These four presidents did not wear hearing aids while they were president, but were fitted for hearing aid devices after finishing their term. They were all fitted shortly after their hearing loss began, which allowed them to stop further loss. As a result, they were able to promote their charities and policy-related efforts.
In 1990, George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. This significant piece of legislation helped prevent workplace discrimination for those with hearing loss and other disabilities.
There were other prominent Americans with hearing loss, and those who made contributions for individuals with hearing loss.
She escaped slavery and contributed to the abolitionist and women's rights movements. At the end of her life, it was reported that she was almost completely deaf by the time she passed away.
In 1894, a bill was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln which permitted the development of a school for the deaf and hard of hearing. Today, it is known as Gallaudet University.
Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge
The former First Lady and wife of Calvin Coolidge was a teacher at the Clarke Institute for the Deaf in Massachusetts. She used her experience from working with disabled children to advocate the need for quality education and employment for those with hearing loss.
She is the first deaf African American female attorney in the U.S. After her career as a lawyer who fought discrimination after experiencing prejudice in Jamaica, her home country, she acquired her current job at the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. She saw firsthand how people with mental or physical disabilities were abused by others and the state. She currently works to fight for the rights of those with disabilities.
Protect Your Hearing Health
Hearing aids have been used by prominent figures throughout history. These well-known individuals helped so many others who are suffering from hearing loss. It allows them to be honest about their condition and seek help from a professional.
Modern hearing aids are discreet and offer several features, such as Bluetooth® streaming, or tracking your brain and body health, in addition to helping you hear better. If you have concerns about your hearing, or believe a loved one may have hearing loss, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a free hearing test and consultation.
Some of the original hearing aid devices included a person using their own hand in a “cupped” position behind their ear. This provided those who were hard of hearing between 7 and 17 dB - meaning it was only helpful for those who had slight-to-mild hearing impairment. Additional rudimentary hearing devices that had been used were an animal’s horns or shell.
Alexander the Great used an animal horn to call and gather huntsmen or soldiers in surrounding areas.
Near the beginning of the 18th century, a speaking trumpet was used to communicate between sea vessels. Specific, historical accounts about the shift from using natural instruments to amplify noise from the speaker and amplifying sounds to the listener continue to be unknown. It could be attributed to innovative individuals who were deaf, or hard of hearing. Researchers believe it’s likely that deaf people who lived during ancient times and in the Middle Ages considered putting a horn’s mouthpiece or even a bugle to their ear in order to amplify sounds.
Hearing Devices from the 17th Century to the 19th Century
There have been written accounts of mechanical hearing instruments from the 1600s. Sir Francis Bacon, an English philosopher, essayist and scientist from the late Renaissance era, recounted a device that helped with hearing and compared the instrument to “ear spectacles”. A description that was published in the Geometria in 1640, Pietro Maria Amiani described a hearing aid device and included mathematical details and utilizing an ear trumpet to help with hearing.
Some people who used these hearing instruments included English painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds, English author Harriet Martineau, and composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven.
By the early 19th century, mechanical hearing devices became available for the wider population. In London, companies such as F.C. Rein (founded in 1800) and Thomas Hawksley (founded in 1869) were some of the first known commercial manufacturers of hearing devices. Each of these manufacturers developed a wide range of hearing devices including auricles, conversation tubes, domes, ear cornets and trumpets.
The Acoustic Chair
British aurist and oculist John Harrison Curtis, designed a unique mechanical hearing device known as the Acoustic Chair. Curtis had previously organized the Royal Dispensary for Diseases of the Ear in 1816. It was the first hospital that was committed to treating ear diseases.
The Acoustic Chair is essentially an armchair that features a large trumpet on one side that transfers sound to the ear of the person sitting in the chair. Curtis explained that the individual who sits in the chair would be able to clearly hear, while sitting comfortably.
Concealing Early Hearing Devices
Hearing aids have evolved greatly since these rudimentary styles. More discreet hearing aids have become more popular in commercially available devices. For some of the earliest hearing devices, some trumpets or domes featured lace, leather, or ribbons in order to mask their purpose.
One type of trumpet could be partly hidden with the user’s hand. Illustrations were provided to show how to hold the devices in an inconspicuous way.
Many of the innovative mechanical hearing aids that were created in the 19th century were produced with the intention of hiding or disguising them. Some of these devices were designed to be concealed in a user’s beard, pocket, hat, or hair (using a headband). They were also veiled as other items such as binoculars, books, flower vases, handbags, hand held fans, opera glasses, plate holders, umbrellas, and water canteens.
Unfortunately, the hearing devices that were designed mainly for its discreetness were only useful for those who had very mild hearing loss. For example, F.C. Rein’s Aurolese Phone from 1802, looked like a floral designed headband, but could only amplify sounds up to 5 to 10 dB. This is similar to the amount of sound that is amplified from cupping your hand to your ear. The London Dome ear trumpet from 1850, was bulky, cumbersome, and large. There was no way to disguise or hide the device, but it provided an amplification of 10-27 dB for the frequency range that is necessary for speech comprehension. At the time, most people with hearing loss wanted, and were willing to pay for, discreet devices even if it did not provide a lot of benefits to their hearing.
In the 20th century, technological advancements helped create hearing aids that could supply the user with powerful acoustic gain and high quality sound processing. Hearing aid users to this day continue the desire for a hearing aid that is not only discreet and beneficial to them, but is also aesthetically pleasing.
If you, or a loved one, believe you are in need of hearing aids, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a free hearing screening and consultation. We offer a wide selection of hearing aids from top name brands!
Woodstock Attendees still Affected by Concert
It’s been 50 years since Woodstock, and concert attendees are still living with the consequences of listening to loud rock and roll music for hours and hours at a time.
According to a Harris Poll that was authorized by Oticon, a hearing aid manufacturing company, 47 percent of adults between the ages of 65 to 80, who said that they listened to loud or very loud music in their teens and 20s, reported that they have experienced hearing loss. For this generation of music lovers, 71 percent stated that music was one of the most significant things to them during their youth.
For some, the music that they listened to during that time is denying them the freedom to listen and enjoy music today. In an online survey conducted this past June, over 1,000 American adults acknowledged:
The survey also showed that the Woodstock Generation suffers from hearing loss in other aspects of daily life, unrelated to music. This includes:
A Lack of Care for Hearing Health
There are 48 million individuals who suffer from hearing loss, but only 4 million people buy hearing aids each year.
Even though they have hearing loss, most members of the Woodstock Generation haven’t done anything to take care of it. About 70 percent have never talked to a professional about their hearing health. Approximately one in 10 (or 12 percent) currently wear hearing aid devices, or have in the past.
If you, or a loved one, suffer from hearing loss due to attending concerts or any other reason, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a free hearing test and consultation from one of our hearing instrument specialists. We offer a wide selection of hearing aids at discount prices!
The month of May was designated as Better Hearing and Speech Month in 1927, by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Their primary objective was to increase awareness of adversities faced by those with hearing and speech problems, while advocating for them to become active in seeking treatment for their own disabilities.
This goal is important now, just as it was 92 years ago. Today we have more knowledge on hearing loss, and how vital hearing health is to our quality of life.
We now know that hearing loss that goes untreated is connected to cognitive decline and dementia. Loss of hearing is also related to a risk of falls and social isolation, which can result in a rise in medical expenses, mental fatigue, etc.
We also know that treating hearing loss will make individuals more likely to feel confident, engaged with others, socially active, and glad that they took action and did something to treat this problem.
Stop suffering from hearing loss, and get treatment today!
Contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a free hearing test and consultation on the best options that are available for you, or a loved one.
Small, behind-the-ear, hearing aid devices, and cochlear implants are just a couple of hearing aids that are made today. But have you ever wondered what types of hearing aids were readily available, before devices powered by electricity were created?
Throughout history, hearing aids were separated into two categories: mechanical and electronic. Mechanical hearing aids did not use outside power sources, but ordinary items were used to help people hear. Some of these items were animal horns that had been hollowed out, or a broken seashell that would have been placed by the ear to amplify surrounding noises. It could have been a big fig leaf rolled up like a tube, or the span of a cane that intensified sounds into the ear.
The Akoulallion (derived from the Greek terms “to hear” and “to speak”) was introduced in the 20th century. It was an electronic hearing aid that were also portable, and powered by batteries. This device operated with a carbon microphone and could be connected to three pairs of earphones at the same time. From that point on, hearing aids have utilized microprocessors, integrated circuits, transistors, vacuum tubes, and an assortment of digital technology to support the surrounding acoustics in order to comprehend speech.
The Very First Hearing Aids
The first hearing aids that we are aware of was not electronic or mechanical, but made with the human hands. Our ears are formed in a way that helps us acquire surround sounds. In some instances, our ears need a little help from a cupped hand in order to amplify sounds.
Hadrian, a Roman Emperor, cupped his hand while listening. Sir Joshua Reynold, an English portrait painter from the 18th-century, painted a self-portrait of himself with a cupped hand. He had allegedly become partially deaf after having a severe cold. The inventor Thomas Edison, along with sociologist and writer Harriet Martineau, also resorted to using a cupped hand to improve their hearing.
You may use a cupped hand as a visual indication that someone needs to speak louder, but are there really advantages to using a cupped hand? In two studies, human hands were used, while in three studies mannequins with synthetic hands were used. They showed the same pattern, but not the same degree. There are two areas that have powerful acoustic gain: 1-3 kHz and 5-8 kHz. The gain in these areas echo reverberations of a hollow sound that is shaped by the “pinna plus cupped-hand”. The degree of acoustic gain, in today’s terms, would be analogous to listeners who have hearing loss ranging from slight to mild.
There are two advantages to comprehending speech with your hand curved behind your ear: It efficiently increases the amount of collection surface for the ear and weakens sound from the rear of the listener. The measure of improvement in signal to noise ratio (SNR) is relevant because it can guide researchers in understanding words, depending on certain speech materials (i.e. unusual words compared to simple foreseeable sentences).
A cupped hand can support acoustic gain and enhance speech comprehension in real environments, for instance, when noise and speech are spatially separated. Speech comprehension doesn’t have added benefits that are improved from a speaker who increases their volume when reacting to the cupped hand.
Do you frequently cup your hands behind your ears? Maybe it’s time for a hearing test. Contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids, for a free hearing test and consultation. We offer affordable hearing aids for people of all ages!
Hearing aids, and their design, have evolved greatly since their introduction to the world over 120 years ago. Small and sleek hearing aid devices have made modern life easier to navigate.
The invention of ear trumpets and conversation tubes
Just like how cupping your hand behind your ear can enhance surrounding sounds to your ear, a long, cup-shaped funnel can improve sounds even better. It looks as though this may have been a muse for the creation of the ear trumpets and conversation tubes. These are non-electronic devices that aided people with hearing since the mid-18th century.
Ear trumpets did not actually intensify sounds. Instead, surrounding noises were gathered and tuned directly into the ear canal. As silly as they looked, users were able to increase their hearing abilities. Here is why:
The first electrical hearing aids were carbon hearing aids. These devices used carbon fragments that were filled into a cylinder. They created a grainy sound that only helped those who had mild to moderate hearing loss. The component of the device that went over the ears resembled a headset, with wires that attached a large battery and microphone to the user - who would carry or fasten it to their clothes.
Carbon batteries were used for vacuum tube hearing aids. Smaller sized vacuum tubes (1 ½” - 1 ¾” long) improved the sound produced by the carbon hearing aids. The tubes created the possibility for the hearing aid to fit right inside a shirt pocket.
In the early 1950s, the transistor hearing aids were unveiled after Bell Labs created the transistor in 1948. It was a single, smaller battery that reduced the size of the hearing aid and extended the battery life.
Ear-level hearing aids
After the integrated circuit was invented, hearing aid manufacturers discovered methods to scale down the procedure even more. Microchips were a stepping stone in the creation of ear-level hearing aids -- aids that could fit behind the ear in a discreet manner. Microphones that are positioned at ear-level assists in hearing natural sounds and, for the first time ever, wearers can wear two hearing aid devices to attain bilateral hearing that is amplified.
Battery life became twice as long as before when zinc-air batteries were marketed in the late 1970s. Zinc-air batteries are currently standard in the hearing aid industry. It replaced the silver oxide and mercury batteries.
Hearing aid design underwent the most dramatic shifts in the last 60 years. It now has smaller, yet dynamic, circuitry available in comfortable and efficient models, which are also discreet.
3 Types of Hearing Aids
The first BTE hearing aid was introduced in 1956. Today they are much smaller than the first models, but still have some resemblance of them. The elements for the amplifier, battery, microphone, and receiver are stored in a crescent-shaped section that fits comfortably behind the ear. The device is attached to the earmold through tubing, which fits in the ear canal.
Receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) or Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC)
Hearing aids are small enough to fit inside your ear canal. Today’s technology allows hearing aid designers to make them even smaller and more powerful in their hearing capabilities. RITE/RIC hearing aids were first designed in 1983. This original version protruded from the ear, but today’s hearing aids are so small that they are practically unnoticeable by those who are standing right next to you.
Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC) and Invisible-in-the-Canal (IIC)
The CIC and IIC hearing aids are custom-made accessories, which were first available in 1993. Each of these custom-made hearing aids is constructed from ear molds of each individual wearer’s ear canal, so that they fit comfortably and provide the best hearing experience. The small size and position in the ear canal make them nearly undetectable by others, which is why it is so popular among wearers.
What is the best hearing aid design?
Modern hearing aids are available in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. They feature as many different characteristics as the users who wear them. Based on how serious your hearing loss is, your daily situations that require listening, and your budget, the best hearing aid design is one that has been chosen specifically for you by your hearing healthcare professional. You and your hearing healthcare provider can discuss which manufacturer and model works best for you.
Contact one of our hearing instrument specialists at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a free hearing consultation, and discuss which hearing aid options are the best for you!
Hearing loss does not discriminate. Anyone can be subject to hearing loss, no matter the race, economic background, age, gender, or any other factors. However, just as anyone can develop hearing loss, people can also create positive changes for those experiencing it.
February is Black History Month, so we are celebrating three outstanding African Americans who have made honorable contributions to better hearing. The following people have contributed tremendous developments in the field of hearing healthcare, such as creating educational opportunities for individuals with hearing loss, advocating hearing protection for workers, and creating technology for hearing aids.
James E. West
With more than 350 patents, James E. West is a prolific inventor who has made a huge impact on the world. He created the Electret Microphone, revolutionizing the hearing aid industry. West and a colleague, developed the foil electret microphone which is a tiny, inexpensive, and highly sensitive microphone perfect for hearing aids. This key innovation was created while they were working for the Acoustics Research Department at Bell Laboratories. It is still used today in almost all devices with microphones, such as audio recording devices, video recorders, baby monitors, and cell phones.
Andrew Foster was an educator for the deaf and hard of hearing. He lost his hearing from spinal meningitis as a child. He is a groundbreaking figure, despite the loss of his hearing. Earning his bachelor’s degree from Gallaudet College (now Gallaudet University) and being the first to do so, Foster made it his life’s mission to make sure an education was available to the hearing impaired and deaf. Foster founded 32 schools for the deaf and hard of hearing in Africa across 13 countries. He was dubbed the “Father of Deaf Education in Africa.”
Dr. Derek Dunn
Dr. Derek Dunn, who earned his doctorate in speech and hearing, was an advocate for preventing hearing loss at work. Dr. Dunn was a leader in this sector of hearing healthcare. He served as the Acting Associate Director for Science at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and a captain in the U.S. Public Health Service. With dedication to the field of hearing health, Dunn completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cochlear morphology and electron microscopy. His personal slogan was, “What have you done for the worker today?”
These three individuals have made monumental contributions to the field of hearing healthcare. Rightly deserving their place in history, their contributions extend far beyond their own careers. They also mentored other minorities in their specific fields for the sake of future developments in education, technology, and science.
If you would like to learn more about hearing health, contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids.
The Starkey Hearing Foundation gives the gift of hearing so that the world may hear. Their hearing mission is phenomenal. They’ve help in so many ways, and there are a multitude of stories to tell.
The hearing aid manufacturer Starkey believes that “Life is made up of sharing ideas, dreams and goals. It’s imperative for hearing.” The founder goes on to say, “Giving one person the gift of hearing may seem like a small act of kindness, but it has a compounding effect on the future of our world.”
Starkey has provided more than 30 years of giving. They bring the gift of hearing to those who live in a silent world. Their core philosophy is that hearing is a vehicle to reflect caring to improve the lives of individuals, their families, and communities.
Their story starts with William F. Austin, founder of the Starkey Hearing Foundation. He wanted to help people hear and change the world. Having started the Starkey Hearing foundation in 1984, Austin says, “Alone we can’t do much. Together we can change the world.” This statement is his premise for the mission. He began the Foundation’s reach in Minnesota, then across the United States to around the world. He accomplished this with the help of thousands of volunteers and supporters. His purpose is to give the gift of hearing to those in need, empowering them to achieve their potential.
Starkey Hearing Foundation pledged a promise in 2010 to give one million hearing aids this decade. They have given the gift of hearing in more than 100 countries. They change lives through hearing.
Their initiatives include preventing hearing loss through their Listen Carefully campaign, which helps low-income Americans get the hearing aids needed. For instance, their Hear Now program gives new life to hearing aids through their recycling program.
Starkey’s Hearing Foundation blog has touched the lives of millions around the world with the stories they have to tell.
If you have hearing loss, please contact your hearing instrument specialist at Pure Sound Hearing Aids.
The Army Service Forces have long been active in rehabilitation of soldiers with aural handicaps since April 1943. Currently, the rehabilitation is being done at three different centers-- Borden General Hospital, Hoff General Hospital, And Deshon General Hospital. Each center has been in operation for more than a year and has a program combining fitting of hearing aids, psychological guidance, lip-reading instruction, speech correction, and auricular (or acoustic) training.
The three centers are accountable for developing and improving their procedures and are given the responsibility of providing each patient with maximum aural rehabilitation. The responsibility has called for pioneering, so each center has evolved different procedures from the other. Each center is engaged in extending and fine-tuning its services.
If you are a soldier needing more information on hearing aids, please contact your hearing instrument specialist at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for more details.
To amplify sound, imagine putting a horn in your ear or even hauling around clunky batteries for your hearing aids. Well, those options were once the only ones for hearing better. But hearing aids have gone through dramatic transformations over the last century. Features, size, and battery power are stunningly revolutionary, now versus then. Now, wearers have many options, including devices that are hardly noticeable to virtually invisible.
Bigger does not mean better for hearing aids
In the pre-19th century, as early as the 13th century, people used cumbersome ear trumpets to channel sound waves to the eardrum. Made in a variety of sizes and shapes, they consisted of various materials, such as wood, animal horns, snail shells, silver, and sheet metal. Then, in the late 1800s, Miller Hutchison invented the Akoulallion, the first electric hearing aid. However, it was so big that it had to be placed on a table. The device decreased to the size of a briefcase over the next several years, becoming portable. Next, Louis Weber developed the first Siemens device in 1911 to improve hearing. This device was called the Esha-Phonophor (middle photo). It was much smaller than Hutchinson’s invention and easier for people on the move to carry. Then, in 1938, the first wearable hearing aid was invented, with hearing aids only becoming smaller. Finally, from the 2000s to now, hearing aids have become so small that they either fit behind the ear or are custom-made and nearly invisible in the ear.
Disappearing problems with batteries
In the 1800s through the 1900s, hearing aids and their batteries were quite sizable. Even Hutchinson’s Akoulallion battery, which was re-designed, still required a big, six-volt storage battery. Weber’s Esha-Phonophor battery, much smaller, could fit in a purse. However, with the introduction of the transistor in the 1950s, a much smaller battery could be used but had to be affixed to the body. Then, in the 1970s, the hearing aid industry latched onto zinc batteries for wearable hearing aids. Small and powerful, they are still used and have a good battery life. In the 2000s to the present, zinc air batteries, thankfully without the mercury, remain in the industry as the most common of batteries. Their sizes vary, depending upon the hearing aid type.
Even better, rechargeable batteries exist. Nickel metal hydride batteries were the first rechargeable hearing aid batteries, but they paled in comparison to the lithium battery. Lithium ion technology has revolutionized the industry.
Hearing clarity improves and features are revolutionized
In the pre-19th century, ear horns were designed to capture more sound. You would stick the narrow end into your ear to funnel the sound to the eardrum. The features were not extensive, but they did come in numerous styles and sizes. In the 1800s through the 1900s, Hutchinson’s Akoulallion was inspired by the creation of the telephone and used a carbon transmitter known for its portability. An electric current heightened the sound. Contrastingly, the Esha-Phonophor, invented by Weber, was called a “sound catcher with two microphones.” Tones could be amplified without interference. It was also smaller and less noticeable. However, hearing aids could be placed right behind the ears with the invention of the transistor in the 1950s, and they could also be turned on and off. Sound quality and size became much better but hearing aids still didn’t have the features wearers truly wanted.
However, in 1987, good things happened. The first commercial digital hearing aid became available and offered more exciting features. This new innovation created a race among hearing aid manufacturers to outdo each other.
In the present, companies strive to enhance convenience and comfort. Hearing aids vary, depending upon the severity of hearing loss. Different lifestyle needs are also highly considered in the manufacturing process of hearing aids. The range of variability includes wireless connectivity, directional microphones, rechargeability, and speech clarity--just to name a few changes.
Improvements to hearing clarity have been achieved by subduing background noise, echoing, and wind interference. Furthermore, connectivity to smartphone apps and the creation of wearable accessories have made hearing aids even better and more enjoyable. So, we have come a long, long way in the improvement process, and it is only more exciting to see where we will go in the future. To learn more about hearing aid innovations, please contact your hearing aid instrument specialist at Pure Sound Hearing Aids.
1954: Phonophor Epsilon
Lighter than a tennis ball, as small as a matchbox.
Shortly after the first pocket hearing aids were introduced, Siemens added a new model to its product range; one that was even smaller and only weighed about one-fourth as much. The Phonophor Epsilon weighed only about 50 grams (less than two ounces), including the batteries, and was the size of a matchbox. This was made possible by a discovery just a short time before that has gone on to become a fixture of our everyday lives — transistor technology. Along with reducing the size and weight of hearing aids, the shift from sub-miniature tubes to transistors brought many other advantages. These new developments helped push the Epsilon, which was designed especially for moderate hearing loss, into becoming the top-selling Siemens hearing aid in Germany and abroad within a short time.
Phonophor Epsilon, 1959
Sub-miniature tubes represented an important step towards ever-smaller hearing aids. But few years would go by before they were replaced by a revolutionary new technology: the transistor. Development began on the transistor in the 1920s by many different researchers, most of them working independently. Transistors were ready for series production in 1954. Used as amplifiers, transistors offered advantages similar to those of sub-miniature tubes, while outperforming them in many respects.
Siemens developed the Phonophor Epsilon, a fully transistor-based hearing aid distinct from others of its kind, starting with outward appearance. The Epsilon was much smaller than devices that used sub-miniature tubes. Its light weight was immediately apparent when held — it was lighter than a tennis ball and weighed noticeably less than earlier hearing aids. This leap was made possible primarily because of transistors’ low power needs. Older hearing aids had to devote about half their size to a battery, but the Phonophor Epsilon managed with just a button cell. Transistors not only made the Phonophor Epsilon compact and energy-efficient they also further enhanced sound quality, especially in the upper frequency range.
A newly-developed microphone contributed to this. Unlike older crystal microphones, the new model from Siemens was also based on a transistor, one that absorbed sound and converted it electromagnetically. The transistors brought with them a practically unlimited lifespan. They were impact-resistant and they did not have any cathodes that could age, or filaments that could burn out. The Epsilon even stood up to extreme temperature fluctuations — from high temperatures in the summer to bitter cold in the winter — better than older pocket hearing aids. For areas with especially hot climates, Siemens developed an even more rugged version, the Phonophor Epsilon Tropic, which delivered the same excellent performance at temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).
The power of electrons – right in your vest pocket.
Better performance with lower use of power, less noise, and no distortion at high frequencies. As early as the 1920s, great strides were made in amplifier technology, and the many advantages electron tubes had over conventional electrical sound amplification became clear. Even with these advances, the engineers of the time had not yet invented a way to manufacture small, portable tubes that could be used for hearing aids. It was not until World War II and the postwar period that sub-miniature tubes were developed, allowing for lightweight, compact hearing aids that encapsulated the benefits of the new technology in a form small enough to fit in a vest pocket. Siemens made this giant leap in hearing aid technology with the Fortiphon and Phonophor Alpha pocket hearing aids.
Electric hearing aids based on telephone technology began to reach their limits, especially when greater amplification was needed. High frequencies are hugely important for voice transmission, but they presented particular limits for the existing technology. Higher amplification was especially an issue when conventional carbon microphones were used — voices sounded louder, but they were distorted. The combination of sub-miniature tubes and crystal microphones solved this problem while also making it possible to build smaller and more powerful hearing aids. In the late 1940s, Siemens was the distributor for the Fortiphon, a pocket hearing aid based on this technology. The company then developed the similarly designed but even more powerful Phonophor Alpha.
Before World War II, a company named Fortiphone was responsible for selling Siemens hearing aids in the UK. Starting in 1949, the roles were reversed for a short time. With Siemens selling the Fortiphon — a pocket hearing aid with sub-miniature tubes and a crystal microphone — on the German market. The sub-miniature tubes developed in the U.S. and in England were not yet available in postwar Germany. Not long afterward, in 1951, Siemens launched its own first hearing aid of this type: the Phonophor Alpha.
Both hearing aids benefited from the advantages of the new technology. The three powerful electron tubes used as amplifiers were each about half the length of a wooden matchstick. Equipped with a crystal microphone, these devices delivered significantly clearer sound quality. This was especially apparent at high frequencies, which are key to faithful reproduction of consonants and whole syllables. The Phonophor Alpha had more than 250 parts, but still weighed in at just 175 grams (a little over six ounces) including batteries, and it was almost as small as a pack of cigarettes. Dubbed “pocket hearing aids,” the Alpha and the similarly compact Fortiphon slipped easily into a vest pocket and could even be worn under clothing.
Another factor that helped make these hearing aids more discreet was their skin-tone earpieces, which were connected to the unit via a cord in the same color. Various sizes of earphones were available. If the wearer’s ear canal varied greatly from the average form, an impression could be taken in order to produce a custom-fitted earpiece. The Phonophor Alpha was also specifically designed to be easy to use. A tiny dial was used to turn the device on and off and adjust the volume, and a flat slider on the side of the housing could be used to adjust the two frequency responses to the desired tone.
Siemens expanded hearing aid production after the huge success of the first Phonophor models. The aids were produced at Berlin’s Wernerwerk plant. New speaker and microphone technology made the new instruments easier to use and sound better. The new Phonophor was also smaller and lighter. Demand increased beyond Germany and several thousand units were being sold annually in the U.S. alone.
“You don’t have to suffer from hearing problems anymore! Try our Phonophor electric hearing aid, approved for years by many hearing loss patients. Now with an earphone that has been significantly improved after extensive testing and research.”
In 1924, an optional microphone amplifier was launched for those with especially severe hearing impairments. Starting in 1928, the metal microphone casing was replaced with a new type of plastic, called Bakelite, that reduced the weight. Siemens hearing aid consultants of the time had many of the same responsibilities as today's hearing aid providers. They helped consumers choose the right model, get used to hearing well again, and explained how to use it.
Werner von Siemens built a telephone which dramatically improved voice quality in 1878. This telephone demonstrated that people with hearing loss could understand speech much better if signals were electrically amplified.
In 1911, Louis Weber used this improvement as the basis to design the first Siemens hearing device. It was named the the Esha-Phonophor. This product was made for a single person, but demand grew quickly, leading to full production in 1913.
The "Esha", as it came to be known, had several variations. One version included a special option for ladies, with the microphone and battery housed in a purse.
This marks the beginning of Siemens hearing aids long and successful history. Siemens hearing products have become the gold standard in the industry.
Pure Sound Hearing Aids is an Advanced Partner with Siemens Hearing Aids. We offer every level of technology (no more purse option though) and service them all. If you would like to try the latest version, please contact us today.