We often view automobiles, computers and the modern cell phones as book marks of history and a way to gauge how the human race has technologically evolved. The history of hearing aids exemplifies human’s ability to solve problems in creative and original ways but rarely receives scrupulous study. Though most third graders could tell you that Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals, very few can think of a similar pioneer in the history of hearing aids.
An all but lost historical figure worth celebrating is Frederick C. Rein. Rein founded the first commercial hearing aid company in London during the 19th century. F.C. Rein & Son produced ear trumpets and speaking tubes before electronic hearing aids were produced. But Rein’s most original contribution was his acoustic chair, which amplified sound for the user while maintaining proper Victorian standards in craftsmanship. The arms of the chair were tubes crafted to look like fierce lion’s heads, their mouths wide open in an imposing growl. The tubes wrapped around the back of the chair to feed sound into the users ears. Imagine going for a hearing test in London in the early 1800’s and resting your arms on two menacing lion heads. One would have had to have been in royal graces to do so. The Rein chair was commissioned by King John VI (King Goa) of Portugal while he reigned in Brazil before his death in 1826. Notice how voices would have been optimized best in a kneeling position in front of the chair’s user.
The next time you feel burdened by the weight and hassle of your modern hearing aids, imagine lugging this royal monstrosity around. If you prefer a more inconspicuous device to enhance your hearing ability, you’re in the right time and place. Demo the latest models at Upstate Hearing Instruments to hear better than a king.