In a special collection owned by a hearing aid specialist, 50 years of scientific progress and improvement are demonstrated in a graphic manner which highlights the vast improvement in personal comfort which hearing aids now offer. This hearing aid specialist loves hearing aids so much, it is both a business and a hobby for him. He started his business in the year 1941, and he began to collect the hearing aids he sold, and it's a great thing he did because these things are a wonderful part of history.
Out of the 30 instruments he has collected from different periods of time, two in particular tell a story. He shows a tiny, shirt button shaped object beside a huge and ungainly pair of the old fashioned bell type dry cell batteries. This tiny object is a battery, he explains, and it does the same job today as those huge batteries did 50 years ago, but even better. There had been enough advancements in hearing aids by the 20s for ladies to be able to carry the batteries under their skirts or hanging from their corsets. It was easier for men, who could put them in their pockets or clip them to their belts. The transmitter was put around the chest underneath clothing, and the two were joined together by an uncomfortable cord.
This ancient hearing aid, shaped like a trumpet, with a cumbersome battery, are now nothing more than a miniature, lightweight device clipped to the back of the ear. Some even clip onto people's glasses for even less conspicuous wear. Those were referred to as carbon diaphragm tools. In 1938 the vacuum tube circuit was most commonly used until 1965, when transistor circuits were developed to help cut down on the bulk of the hearing aid instruments, giving the user an easier to wear unit which boasted a battery with a longer life.
These past couple of years have yielded some of the greatest advancements made in the history of both instruments and hearing aids. Hearing aids now use tiny, button sized batteries that are strong enough to work for an entire week, so the heavy cords are a memory. Hearing aids have been in use since the late 19th Century, including many unusual types which featured trumpets and speakers, horn-like instruments that were used to collect sound from a speaker and funnel it through a tube into the ear of the hearing impaired user's ear to improve and increase sound.
One clever woman ingeniously invented an aid for the time when women wore their hair over their ears in buns. She would conceal the little celluloid trumpet with frizzy trimmings of her own hair, then she'd wear it in a bun; this was something that later became a fashion statement. Along the same lines of this hearing aid were two others; one was a lorgnette and trumpet combination made of tortoise shell, and the other was a cup type that was mother of pearl. Those days it seemed men didn't wear hearing aids as much as women, either because they didn't want people to know they had a handicap or because they weren't as inconspicuous on men.
This hearing aid expert was moving away from one career in favor of another that could hold his interest when he discovered his love for hearing aids. When he decided he wanted to do something different with his life, he had been working as a horticulturalist for 15 years. What he really wanted was to have a business of his very own. He states he had problems finding someone to hire him at age 40, and he also wanted to find a job that helped people. He learned about hearing aids in New York offices. It's hard to grasp exactly how much being able to hear effects our relationships with the people around us. Being deaf denotes strong psychological and emotional issues, and it poses an overwhelming amount of stress on mental stability and health.
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