When did audiology begin? It depends on who you ask. It’s clear that audiology as a profession really began taking off in the 1920s when technology was advanced enough to design the first audiometers to measure hearing, though the term “audiology” wasn’t used until 1946. Yet even thousands of years ago, people began investigating hearing, hearing loss and its causes. Here’s a timeline of important events in audiological history:
- 1550 BC – There are writings from a famous medical scroll – Ebers – that, among various other medical topics, discuss “treatments” for hearing loss. Historians believe that this document is based on even older writings, but they can only speculate.
- 4th century BC – Sometime between the 5th and 4th centuries BC, Hippocrates – that most famous Greek doctor and philosopher, whose legacy and impact on medicine is still apparent in the Hippocratic Oath – made his mark on the study of hearing loss. He was the first in written history to use clinical research to attempt to find a cause for hearing loss, which he thought was related to the direction of winds, weather changes and also tinnitus. He also believed that hearing loss could be related to skull trauma.
- 50 – 25 BC – Aulus Cornelius Celsus was the first to differentiate between various hearing disorders, and some of Celsus’s treatments are still in use today in their most minimal form, including those dealing with foreign bodies in the ear, ulcers and ear wax blocking the ear canal.
- 1st century AD – Roman physician Arhigenes used loud sound to stimulate the auditory system, believing (incorrectly) that this could stimulate hearing in those with hearing loss.
- 4th century AD – Physician Alexander of Tralles used herbs to treat hearing loss, as well as the auditory stimulation method by blowing a trumpet directly into the ear canal.
- Middle Ages – Other interesting rehabilitation methods were used by well-meaning ear doctors to stimulate hearing in patients with hearing loss, including speaking softly and using a small silver or gold tube to suction the eardrum.
No major progress was made in the understanding of hearing and how the ear works until the Renaissance, and big steps were not taken in audiology until the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Here are some of the biggest moments in modern audiology:
- 1898 – Miller Reese Hutchison invents the first electronic hearing aid, called the Akouphone.
- 1920s – The audiometer is designed and invented to measure hearing loss and pave the way for new hearing loss research and innovations.
- 1940s – Soldiers return from World War II with noise-induced hearing loss due to advanced warfare technology.
- 1946 – The first appearances in print of the word “audiology” are in the Journal of Speech Disorders and the Volta Review.
- 1948 – Meniere’s disease is differentiated from acoustic tumors.
- 1950s – The use of physiologic measurements to test hearing are routine now.
- 1961 – Doreen Kilmura and Brenda Milner discover the right ear’s advantage in processing language.
- 1977 – The Academy of Doctors of Audiology is founded.
- 1978 – ASHA is founded.
- 1988 – American Academy of Audiology is founded.
- 2007 – The Au.D. degree (doctor of audiology) degree becomes required for all new professionals entering the field. Practicing individuals become grandfathered in.