How long have audiograms and hearing tests been around?
With the many advancements that we have in this day and age with hearing tests and audiology, it is hard to imagine what things were like before. Hearing aids are so subtle these days, and the testing that we do is quick and efficient. But when did audiology first begin?
Looking at the research, it does actually depend on who you ask. Becoming an audiologist as a profession started in the 1920s. This is when there was some technology being launched, and there were enough tools to make and design the very first audiometers that test hearing. However, the term audiology wasn’t something that was in use until nearly 1950. Before that, though, there is evidence of people looking into hearing loss and investigating hearing, so here is a breakdown of audiology and hearing tests, and how long they have been around.
- 1550 BC: There have been some writings on medical scrolls called Ebers, dating back to 1550 BC, that look at various medical topics, but do talk about treatments for loss of hearing. Many historians think that these scrolls are based on notes and writings that could be even older, but this is something that can only be a guess. It So an interest in hearing, and the fact that people have been experiencing hearing loss for thousands of years, is of real interest.
- 4th century BC: The famous Greek philosopher Hippocrates, made his first mark on studying hearing loss between the 4th and 5th centuries BC. It has been found that he was one of the first ever to use clinical research to look for a cause of hearing loss, which according to his works, he thought was related to weather, wind, and tinnitus. He also noted that he thought hearing loss could be because of trauma to the skull.
- 50 - 25 BC: It has been found that Aulus Cornelius Celsus was one of the first people to be able to find a difference between hearing problems. In fact, some of his treatments are still used today in some circumstances, such as ear candles for ear wax blockages.
- 1st century AD: The Roman doctor Archigenes was found to use loud noises in order to stimulate the ear. He incorrectly believed that this would help others with hearing loss.
- 4th century AD: The doctor Alexander of Tralles was found to use herbs as a way to treat hearing loss. There are also records of him blowing a trumpet right into the ear canal as a way to stimulate it.
- Middle Ages: There were a number of ‘interesting’ methods that were implemented at the time, by doctors that were meaning well, in order to stimulate the ears of the patients that were experiencing hearing loss.
After this time, there wasn’t a whole lot of progress in the area of audiograms and hearing tests, or even how the ear works, until the Renaissance era. From there, there were big leaps that were taken in this area, but not until the 19th and 20th centuries, which is more like the hearing tests and audiograms that we know and understand today. In 1898, the first electronic hearing aid was invented, and then years later in the 1920s, as has been described above, the audiometer was designed. This was used as a way to measure hearing loss, and it paves the way for hearing loss innovations and more research.
Audiology was first described in 1946, in the Journal of Speech Disorders, so hearing tests as we now know them could be described as starting at this time. Only a few years later in the 1950s, was the use of measurements to test hearing now something that was introduced. Since then, there have been more and more discoveries, with people finding out about the use of the right ear and how it can help in language processions, as well as there being audiology academies and training formed to further this field. Most recently, in 2007, was when the Au.D. degree (doctor of audiology) became something that was required for all professionals wanting to get into this industry.
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