How Long Have Audiograms and Hearing Tests Been Around?

an audiologist reviewing an audiogram with her patient

Visiting an audiologist, going through their tests, and examining the results all feel like a normal part of life for many people. You will have probably gone through this process before and will have a good idea of what it involves, but you may not realize quite how much work has gone into designing tests like this. Join us as we explore the history of audiograms and hearing tests, giving you the chance to appreciate the work that has gone into this complex field.

Ancient history

The story of hearing tests dates all the way back to ancient Greece. Hippocrates of Cos was one of the world’s first physicians to use written research to explore medicine and is well known for coming to many accurate conclusions about the human body that would take many centuries to prove. Hippocrates believed that hearing loss was caused by damage to the skill and exposure to heavy winds. While this wasn’t perfectly accurate, it was surprisingly close when you consider the tools he had to work with.

Just a few hundred years later, Aulus Cornelius Celsus wrote one of the world’s first medical encyclopedias. This included a lot of work surrounding hearing loss, including a range of unique solutions to this problem that is reflected by modern medicine. One of these methods was the surgical removal of blockages inside the ear, and this is something that surgeons can still do today.

The 1800s

While many ancient physicians made great progress with research into hearing loss, the proper ground wasn’t starting to be covered until the 1800s. During this time, two scientists called Ernst Heinrich Weber and Heinrich Adolf Rinne began to develop a hearing testing method using tuning forks to determine the extent of hearing loss and whether it was conductive or sensorineural hearing loss.

By 1879, David Edward Hughs had created the world’s first audiogram. This device had a knob that could be turned to play different sounds, with the patient giving a signal when they struggle to hear certain pitches. This was developed to come with a graph to plot the pitches that a patient couldn’t hear, giving a deep insight into the type of hearing loss they are experiencing.

World war II

Like many wars throughout history, World War II marks a big step in technological advancement. Loads of new tools and machines had to be made to deal with the problems caused by the war, but much of this fallout wasn’t felt until the conflict was over. Hospitals found themselves overwhelmed with hearing loss patients, with bombs, gunfire and other loud noises being common on battlefields.

By 1919, Raymond Carhart and Norton Canfield had begun working on an electric audiogram that could be used to test people’s hearing. Not only did this tool make it much easier for audiologists to test their patients, but it also came with the added benefit of increasing the level of detail that doctors had access to. Modern audiograms have followed in the footsteps of these early machines, but have come a very long way since.

Audiograms in modern times

Compared to what was used at the end of WWII, the technology available in the 21st century goes far beyond what people used to have. Audiogram tests can now be performed without requiring any input from a patient. An Automated otoacoustic emissions test can be used to play audio to patients, measuring their brain’s response to the sound to determine if they can hear them or not. This makes it possible to perform hearing tests on babies.

Alongside this, hearing tests have also been made digital in recent times. This makes it possible for audiologists to access and analyze results from anywhere in the world, while also opening the doors to tests that don’t require a professional at all. Audicus released the world’s first online audiogram test in 2017, with a system that is detailed enough to automatically program hearing aids and provide warnings when a patient shows the signs of an underlying health condition.

Here at the Harbor Audiology & Hearing Services, we take audiograms and hearing tests very seriously. Having a skilled hearing professional to walk you through this process will always provide more accurate results, while also giving you the chance to simply focus on improving your hearing. Call us today at one of the following locations to book your test.

  • Bainbridge Island: (360) 227-6225
  • Gig Harbor: (253) 851-3932
  • Port Angeles: (360) 633-3706
  • Sequim: (360) 681-7500
  • Silverdale: (360) 692-6650
  • Tacoma: (253) 473-4394