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The Evolution Of Hearing Devices

By Rizwan Ahmad - 08 May 2013 No Comments
Over the last three decades, technology has advanced on an exponential basis. It is incredible to think that cellphones became commercially available only thirty years ago. Or that just three decades ago, the term “laptop” was first coined. Nowadays, it is hard to find a person who doesn’t own a cellphone, and laptops are in almost every single home. This technological exponentiation has translated to almost every industry, particularly the medical field. New medical devices are constantly being invented and produced, and medical innovation is one of the leading targets of venture capitalists. One device that has undergone significant changes is the hearing aid.

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Evolution Of Hearing Devices
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Metal Ears, Hearing Trumpets, and Acoustic Horns...Huh?
Hearing devices can be traced back as far as the 17th Century. A device called the “metal ear” was placed over the outside of the ear and served, supposedly, to amplify sound intake by artificially enlarging the size of the outer ear. In the 19th Century, hearing trumpets and cones became mass produced. The primary problem was that the effectiveness of these hearing devices were directly related to their size, and of course, their size directly inhibited their mobility. Until the invention of the acoustic horn in the late 1800’s, hearing devices that were of conveniently mobile size were also extremely limited in their effectiveness.

Hearing Aids go Electronic
In 1898, the first electric hearing aid was invented by Miller Reese Hutchison. By 1913, the Siemens company had begun mass producing and distributing electric hearing aids. These devices were quite large, about the size of a “tall cigar box,” and while they could be fit into a purse while the attached speaker was held up to the ear, their significant weight kept them from being practically portable for most individuals. A few years later, a vacuum-tube hearing aid was invented, weighing just seven pounds. By the 1930’s, portable electronic hearing aids were much more widely employed by the general public than they had been previously.

Integrated Circuits, Oh My!
Transistors and integrated circuits were the next steps in hearing device development, thanks in large part to the innovation of Texas Instruments. Integrated circuits formed the primary hearing aid technology from 1950-1970. In the 1970’s, the microprocessor was invented, allowing for the implementation of previously created technologies by Bell Telephone Laboratories. While miniature hearing devices had not yet arrived to the market, the door had been opened. By 1979, Daniel Graupe’s six-channel hearing aid had been developed such that the user could change settings with the simple press of a button, adjusting the device to appropriately fit the user's auditory environment. This feature is still used in all modern hearing aids.

Into the Digital Age
In 1987, the first commercially available, digital hearing aid hit the market, courtesy of Nicolet Corporation. The aid had a body-worn processor, which was hardwired to an ear-mounted transducer, allowing for increased mobility and performance. Despite the viability of it’s product, this new hearing device was a commercial failure, putting Nicolet Corporation out of business. The resulting scramble by established hearing aid companies to find a successful digital alternative led to the invention of behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids, which are still used to this day.

Tiffany Olson hails from Northern California where she blogs for small, local businesses in order for them to increase their online presence. This article was inspired by UpState Hearing and the work they do providing hearing devices in Red Bluff, a small town off of Interstate 5 in Northern California that you will miss if you drive by and blink.
Rizwan Ahmad
About the Author:
This article is contributed by Tiffany Olson and posted by Rizwan Ahmad Author and founder of cyberockk.com, He is a tech blogger from India and he loves to share his thoughts by writing articles on this site to the different topics related to technology world,

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