Hugh Hetherington Hearing Aid Museum
Hugh Hetherington Hearing Aid Museum

The Hearing Aid Museum

Hearing Aids of all types—Ear Trumpets, Carbon Hearing Aids, Vacuum Tube Hearing Aids, Transistor Hearing Aids, Body Hearing Aids, Eyeglass Hearing Aids and much more!

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Click on the "General Information" button (top button above) for an overview and general information on this category of hearing aid.

 

Hybrid Vacuum Tube/Transistor Hearing Aids

Sonotone 1010 Hybrid Hearing Aid

The Sonotone 1010 hearing aid was the very first commercial hearing aid to use a transistor. It came out on December 29, 1952. At that time it sold for $229.50.

Actually, the Sonotone 1010 was a hybrid as it used 2 vacuum tubes and a single transistor as the output stage.

The development of this hearing aid represented the first step in the move from vacuum tubes to all-transistor hearing aids.

The metal case measured 3" by 2¾" by about ½" thick.

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Here is an excerpt from the March, 1953 issue of Fortune magazine showing that the Sonotone 1010 was the first hearing aid to ever use a transistor.

 

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Here is an excerpt from page 205 of the book, "Crystal Fire: The Birth of the Information Age" by Michael Riordan, also confirming that the Sonotone was the first hearing aid to use a transistor.

 

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Here is an advertisement from the Syracuse Herald Journal of December 30, 1952 again confirming that the Sonotone 1010 was the first hearing aid to use a transistor.

 

 

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Early transistors had problems with their signal-to-noise ratio. As a result, Sonotone used two vacuum tubes in the first stages of the circuit, and utilized a transistor in the output stage.

This combination maintained a high signal-to-noise ration while reducing the operating current required. This resulted in reduced battery operating costs for the user.

The problems with the early production transistors were quickly solved, and most hearing aid manufacturers were producing all-transistor hearing aids by the end of 1953.

Vacuum tube hearing aids quickly disappeared from the market. This resulted in significant reductions in battery costs for hearing aid users because the high voltage "B" battery was no longer needed.

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This is the Sonotone 1010 in its original box.

Incidentally, the Sonotone Model 1010, although a hybrid, was awarded the Audio Engineering Award of Excellence in 1953, even winning over all- transistor hearing aids. Here is the report by the judging committee giving their reasoning.

 

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These body-style hearing aids had a button receiver (earpiece) to which a hard plastic ear mold snapped to hold the receiver to the ear.

 

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The Sonotone 1010 used a type 401 mercury cell for the "A" battery and a type 504 15 volt "B" battery.

There is much more information on the importance of transistors in the  development of hearing aids, and particularly this hearing aid on Bob McGarrah’s website.

If you are interested in the history of Sonotone International, the maker of Sonotone hearing aids, Roger Russell has a great website that details its history from its beginnings in 1929 until its ultimate demise in 2005. There is also a page giving some information on some of the Sonotone hearing aids produced.
 

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