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!
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