Who Created the Hearing Aid?

This blog post has been reviewed and approved by a hearing care professional.

The first device created to help those with hearing loss was invented in the 17th century. It was an acoustic or non-electric hearing aid and the only hearing aids available before the advent of electricity. The device was called an ear trumpet and its amplification depended on the acoustic characteristics and shapes of the materials used, such as sheet iron and animal horns.1


Ear trumpets were tapered tubes that captured sounds and funneled them into the listener’s ear. Over time, ear trumpets were developed to flare at the end of the tube, or to add a resonant bowl which could increase the amplification. The first person to commercially produce ear trumpets was Frederick C. Rein. In the late 18th century after inventing the collapsible trumpet they started to look for a more eye pleasing product which led to the invention of the acoustic headband.1 Acoustic hearing aids didn’t die out completely with the invention of more modern hearing aid technologies and were manufactured up to 1990.

Miller Reese Hutchison created the first electric hearing aid in 1898,2 as a direct result of Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone in 1876. The telephone had technology to control the frequency, distortion, and loudness of sounds, which constitutes the key components of a hearing aid. The design employed an electric current, which helped the device to amplify any weak signals.


Fifteen years later, the first commercially manufactured hearing aid came onto the market from the Siemens company. The “Esha-Phonophor”, a device created by Louis Weber in 1911 as a gift for a friend, saw the design rise in popularity, and eventually led to the company Siemens, currently named Signia.

In 1920, the first U.S. patent for a portable hearing aid that made use of a vacuum tube was given to Naval Engineer Earl Hanson.3 The Vactuphone took a telephone transmitter and used it to convert sounds into electrical signals. The device came in at seven pounds and was considered lightweight and portable for the time; it is wondrous how much technology and design has advanced since then.


The Behind-The-Ear hearing aid was first introduced in 1989. In 1996, Widex introduced the first commercially successful, full digital hearing aid into the market, and in 2010 came Bluetooth® enabled devices. Each year more research and advancements have come into place to improve hearing aids and we look forward to seeing how hearing aids progress in the future.

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1 Bauman, Neil. “The Hearing Aids of Yesteryear.” Canadian Audiologist. Accessed June 8, 2022. https://canadianaudiologist.ca/the-hearing-aids-of-yesteryear/

2 “1898 Invention of Electrical Hearing Aids.” Deaf History. Accessed June 8, 2022. https://deafhistory.eu/index.php/component/zoo/item/1898-invention-of-electrical-hearing-aids

3 Bauman, Neil. “The 100th Anniversary of the World’s First Electronic Hearing Aid.” Canadian Audiologist. Accessed June 8, 2022. https://canadianaudiologist.ca/issue/volume-8-issue-6-2021/100th-anniversary-of-the-first-electronic-hearing-aid/

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