There are several speculations as to the inventor of the hearing aid. Hearing aids have been around since time immemorial and perhaps it is easier to find out who the inventor of the modern hearing aid is.
Hearing aids have a long history, ever since the prehistoric times. It is believed and rightly so that the first hearing aids were the trumpets, funnel shaped structures made of wool, metal or sometimes trunks of animals which used to amplify the incoming sound and redirecting all of the sound energy to one’s ears. These types of hearing aids have been into use for a long time until the recorded history of mankind.
(Photo Credit: Soichi Yokoyama)
The inventor of the hearing aid which comes closest to the likes we get to see today was Harvey Fletcher. An American physicist, born on 11th July in the year 1884, who is also the inventor of the audiometer, Fletcher patented the first electrical hearing aid while working for Bell Laboratories.
The documented history of modern era gives several names who have had invented various types of hearing aids across the world through the nineteenth and twentieth century. Alphonsus William Webster was the first patent holder of a hearing aid in the year 1836 in Great Britain.
Later, in the year 1880, another type of hearing aid was invented using cardboard and rubber by R. G. Rhodes.
1898 witnessed Alfonso Miltmore come up with an electric hearing aid that used a headphone (or earphone), carbon dust microphone and a pack of battery. He would have been credited as the inventor of the modern hearing aid but his design was unreliable hence it never made it to the public at large.
In 1898, two major developments happened. The Dictagraph Company developed the first hearing aid that was commercially available, it worked on batteries. Around the same time, Miller Reese Hutchinson came with a hearing aid, named the Acousticon. The Acousticon was available in the markets from 1901. Miller Reese Hutchinson is also at times considered as the inventor of the hearing aid.
Later in the twentieth century, Maynard Engebretson, Robert E Morley, Jr. and Gerald R Popelka designed and came up with the first fully digital hearing aid. As per the US patents records, this hearing aid was officially patented in 1984. Ever since, there have been several developments and transformations to the designs and functions of contemporary hearing aids.