Aid Origins: The Akouphone

Posted by

woman wearing a hearing aidA Montana man by the name of J.C. Chester invented the first semblance of an electric hearing aid first, by attaching a telephone to a battery. He then put the receiver in his ear and carried it wherever he went.

The Akouphone

The first electronic hearing aid went by the name of the Akouphone or Akoulathon. Miller Reese Hutchison invented the device in 1898. The Akouphone used a carbon transmitter to convert weak audio signals into stronger ones via electric signals.

Hutchison’s inspiration for inventing the Akouphone was a childhood friend named Lyman Gould, who was deaf from scarlet fever. Miller trained in engineering, but also studied anatomy at the Medical College of Alabama.

The first designs were marketed to Hutchison’s native Alabama, but the device didn’t sell. The bulky tabletop assisted hearing device was expensive and impractical for everyday use. It either needed to have people place tables everywhere to put the device down for a normal conversation, or carry it around everywhere.

To Europe

Hutchison improved the design to make it more portable, but decided to market the product in Europe. Several members of various royal families had hearing problems, presenting the Akouphone with the perfect opportunity to gain renown.

Queen Alexandra of Denmark was so fond of the device that she invited Hutchison to the coronation of her husband Edward VII as King of the United Kingdom in 1902.

The Acousticon

Following his success in Europe, Hutchison moved to New York to continue to improve the Akouphone. Hutchison came up with the Acousticon, a version of the Akouphone that was smaller, more portable, and powered by batteries.

The Acousticon was the miracle device until 1904. Medical experts discovered that the Acousticon, though a big step forward, was not the miracle device the press wrote it to be. Frequency and dynamic range was limited in the Acousticon, and it couldn’t help people who were born with the condition, or the ones who had total hearing loss.

Other Inventions

Hutchison also invented the Massacon, and the Akoulalion. These devices didn’t amplify sound, but converted them into vibrations. These devices supposedly helped people with more severe hearing conditions. Hutchison sold the rights for the Acousticon to Kelly Monroe Turner in 1905.

The Akouphone and Acousticon paved the way for the hearing aids that empower hearing-impaired people all over the world.

Comments are closed.