By K. Ray Katz
We “old timers” occasionally look back on our younger years thinking how good things used to be: less crime, fewer worries, and a lot less that we had to know to do the best we could with what our suppliers were able to produce to help our hard-of-hearing patients.
It is nothing less than amazing that we were able to satisfy a large number of our patients with such unsophisticated technology. Or was it simply that their desire to hear better overcame the limitations of what we were selling?
For the “newbies” who may have heard of but never seen what “state of the art” meant years ago in hearing care technology, a picture may be worth at least 500 words. I was recently going through my collection of antique hearing aids and audiometers. Below you’ll find a few of them.
First, let’s take a look at some of the test equipment from 50 years ago.
At left is the Maico Model F-1 portable audiometer from the early 1960s, which weighed 25 pounds.
The Willodyne Hearing Computer, a portable, battery-operated audiometer/hearing aid simulator, was manufactured in the 1950s.
Now here are some of the quality hearing aids our industry was fitting from the 1940s through the 1960s.
At left is the Zenith Radio Corp. Body Aid Model A2A, w/batteries and at right the Maico BTE Serial # 20584.
At left, clockwise from upper left are #10, the Maico Model W Body Aid;#11, the Otarion Bone Conduction Eyeglass Cross Aid; #14, the Maico Model 195 Body Aid, Serial # 63; #13, the Microsonic Model 34 Body Aid; and #12, the Maico Body Aid Serial, # 33124;.
In the figure at left, the top instrument is the Microtone Audiomatic T-8 Body Aid with presentation case (#1). Below are, at left, the Zenith Regent Body Aid with “phone magnet” technology (#2) and a body aid with compression technology by an unknown manufacturer.
This figure shows three body aids. Clockwise from lower left are the Sonotone Model 900 (#8), the Toshiba THA-001 with presentation case (#9), and the Maico Model W (#10)
So, what do you think people will be saying when they compare today’s instruments with those available in 2033? Or will hearing aids have been replaced by medication or surgery? Maybe professional testing with an automated head scan will be available at your local drug store.
What was unimaginable 40 years ago is commonplace today. And for procrastinators, what we have to offer will be even better tomorrow. But is that really a good excuse to wait another five years?
Who knows, hearing instruments may get to a point where they are the size of a fish scale and are glued to the eardrum. If that happens I’ll bet you patients will still complain about the size – and background noise.
The more things change – the more they stay the same.
K. Ray Katz, the Business Manager of The Blogs @ Hearing Health and Technology Matters, was a hearing instrument specialist for many years.