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BIHIMA is marking the first anniversary of its rebrand and change of name, not only by celebrating its own birthday and achievements over the past year, but by also recognising how far the entire industry has come in technological terms since hearing aids were first pioneered. Our new online timeline reveals a story of invention and innovation that continues to inspire our members today. The small scale and intricate design of hearing devices means that the technology behind them has to be incredibly sophisticated, resulting in products which are at the forefront of the digital technology revolution. This inevitably means that hearing technology is rapidly changing all the time. But progress hasn’t always been so fast. As our timeline illustrates, the first ever hearing device – a large horn-shaped wooden instrument – was documented in 1588, but it wasn’t until the late 1700s that large ear trumpets were in common use. Around the same time, it was discovered that bone conduction could help hearing. In 1812 a device was invented which connected speaker and listener by a rod held between their teeth! As the new century dawned, in 1898, the first electric hearing aids were pioneered. The same transistor technology used in newly invented telephones was then directly applied to hearing devices – and yet it wasn’t until the 1950s that the first transistor body-worn hearing devices came on the market. The seeds of the digital sound age were finally sown in the 1960s when speech and audio signals were processed on a large mainframe computer – and, as they say, the rest is history! Today, this rapidly evolving technology encompasses Bluetooth tech, smart phone compatibility, rechargeable batteries, and who knows what other life-changing capabilities will be available tomorrow. BIHIMA continually seeks to champion this pioneering spirit at the heart of the hearing technology industry by promoting the innovative products of our members, and also through our activity as an advocate for change with government and policy makers. This has been reflected in a number of key campaigns over the past year, most recently our call for further research into the link between hearing loss and dementia in order to quantify the role of hearing technology. “We are proud of this and all the important work we’ve done over the last 12 months,” said the BIHIMA chairman Paul Surridge. “This technology timeline is a way of looking back at our own short history as an organisation in the context of all the years of pioneering hearing technology that’s gone before it. This is a history that our members are still shaping today as we look towards the exciting, ever-changing future of hearing technology.”

This article was written for the BIHIMA website.  For full article go to