A BRIEF HISTORY OF HEARING AID SOLUTIONS
It might be surprising to learn that hearing aids have been around since the 17th century. With ever changing and advancing technologies, hearing aids have become more comfortable, more invisible and more effective.
A Bit About Hearing Loss
At least 5 million Canadians suffer from hearing loss yet only one in six wear hearing aids. Although only 10 percent of those suffering from hearing loss can be helped by surgery, the remaining 90 percent can easily improve their hearing greatly with the use of hearing aid solutions.
The average hearing aid wearer is 60 years old, and surprisingly most people wait up to 15 years to consider purchasing their first hearing aids. This could be in part due to the cost which can range from $1,000 to $4,000 but is often due to a feeling of embarrassment about wearing a hearing aid. Those with hearing challenges are twice as likely to suffer from depression if they choose not to wear a hearing aid when compared to those without hearing issues, or who wear a hearing aid.
In 2018 it is estimated that 466 million people suffered from hearing loss, and by the year 2050 it is estimated that number will rise to about 900 million.
Hearing Aids in History
The history of hearing aids spans several centuries with some very unusual solutions throughout the decades. The ear trumpet of the 17th and 18th centuries were made by instrument artisans and were customized for each client. Their design allowed people to collect sound waves and funnel them into the ear for a more pronounced sound. In the 19th century the akoulathon, or akourphone was introduced which was the first electronic hearing aid invented by Miller Reese Hutchison. It used a carbon transmitter to strengthen audio signals. In the 1920s the vacuum hearing aid was invented which converted speech into electric signals. Transistor hearing aids arrived in the Mid-20th century with the help of Bell Laboratories. This developed major hearing improvements offering less battery power than vacuum hearing aids, in hand with improved comfort and less distortion.
In the 1970s the use of microprocessor introduced smaller hearing aids. This style of hearing aid was used well into the 1980s, when digital signal processing chips were added to hearing aids. Digital hearing aids arrived in the 1990s which made hearing aids more comfortable and less sensitive to high pitched sounds.
Hearing Aids Now and Into the Future
The invisible hearing aid of the 21st century was one of the greatest advancements as it allowed people to be more discreet about their hearing loss. As well it offered greatly improved speech enhancement and programmable features which allow sound to be regulated easily. There are also self-regulating features that adjust to the noise levels in the environment and do not require the user to control the volume. That means that annoyances such as loud music, traffic and even interference from wind is automatically faded.
Emerging trends will include not only connectivity and individualization, but instruments powered by the human body and regenerative procedures to heal the cells within the ear.