Hearing loss impacts nearly 48 million people in the U.S. That number is predicted to rise to 1 in 10 people within the next 30 years. There’s no cure for hearing loss, but hearing aids can help with the symptoms of hearing loss. There have been so many advancements in hearing aid technology. Relationships become less strained due to better communication abilities, reduced depression caused by isolation, anxiety, and cognitive decline linked to hearing loss that goes untreated. Let’s review the history and evolution of hearing loss and hearing healthcare.
Earliest Discovery of Hearing Loss
A primitive example of hearing loss was found in skeletal remains that were more than 10,000 years old in the Shanidar Caves located in Iraqi Kurdistan (Southern Kurdistan). Archeologists discovered exostoses - tiny bone growths located in the ear canal that can lead to conductive hearing loss.
A Record of Hearing Loss during Ancient Egypt
A medical journal known as Ebers Papyrus detailed the earliest known record of hearing loss in 1550 BC. In the text, a solution for “Ear That Hears Badly” was detailed as infusing ant eggs, bat wings, goat urine, olive oil, and red lead in the ears. Most of these ingredients were ineffective, but placing some olive oil in the ears is still recommended by some to loosen earwax that’s obstructing the ear canal.
A Record of Hearing Loss during Ancient Greece
During the early 10th-century, Artistotle and Plato mentioned their own hearing loss. Their remarks were incorrect and careless in the way we view the deaf community today. They both noticed that the “ability to reason was intrinsically linked with the ability to speak”. This implies that they believed a person’s ability to hear was related to the person’s intellect. We now know that this is not the case. Some accommodations may be required, but a person’s intelligence and lack of hearing abilities are not interconnected.
A Record of Hearing Loss in France
Sign language was originated by monks in Burgundy, France during the 10th century. Monks who took a vow of silence came up with their own hand signals in order to non-verbally communicate. It was called the Cluniac sign language. The nonverbal language was soon taught to other monks across Europe, with many pointing out that if they lost their voices this sign language would be adequate to communicate with others. This was the basis for modern sign language.
Ancient Hearing Aid Devices
Ear trumpets that were made from animal horns and sheet iron were early instruments for hearing during the 17th century. By the 18th century, they became mass-produced. In 1876, after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, inventors had the ability to use this technology in the first amplified electronic hearing aids. Miller Reese Hutchinson introduced the first electronic hearing aids in 1889.
When these devices were introduced during the 1913 World Fair, they were very large and bulky. In 1920, vacuum tube technology made hearing aids easy to travel with and functional. This was standard until the mid-1940s when transistor technology was made for WWII. Microprocessors invented in the mid-1970s and ‘80s provided faster, lighter, and more powerful hearing aids with analog technology.
Digital Hearing Aids
During the 1990s, the first digital technology was introduced to the public. As these new technologies evolved to smaller devices, so did hearing aids. Making the devices more powerful was also important to reduce feedback noises. Digital hearing aids were gradually customized for each individual’s hearing loss, rather than standard options for varying degrees.
Modern hearing aids can help with nearly every range of hearing loss, blocks out background noises, mask tinnitus, connects to devices via Bluetooth®, and uses AI to automatically adjust to your environment.
Contact us at Pure Sound Hearing for more information and to schedule an appointment with one of our hearing instrument specialists.