As of 2006, there were an estimated 560 million people in the world with hearing loss.[1]  Using technology to improve amplification and decrease hearing loss has been an evolving science since the mid-sixteenth century.  Great strides have been made to better the quality of technology for the hearing impaired from the use of a hand to amplify sound, to the introduction of the cochlear implant in the early 2000’s.  Between those two extremes of development, ear trumpets were an invention that increased the quality of living for those who experienced loss of hearing by providing a way to capture wanted sounds while sheltering the ear from background noises.[2]  The evolution of hearing devices got better as time passed, but the ear trumpet in particular saw a long lifespan, ranging from 1855 into the 1920’s due to the slow growing popularity of  early electrical hearing aids.[3]

Donated to the New York State Historical Association in 1942 by Stephen C. Clark, the ear trumpet in the collection at the Iroquois Storage Facility is 12 inches long, 4 inches high and the cone on top 4 inches wide.  The ear trumpet is made from sheet metal and it is possible that it was once tinned, but through age and use, the tin has worn off to leave the sheet metal and rust showing.  The ear trumpet comes apart in the middle of the tube, presumably for easier storage and carrying.[4]  Although it is difficult to know the exact model of ear trumpet, it is safe to say it is a variation of the once popular long domed ear trumpet.

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Trumpet, Ear, metal, tin, L:12 x H:4 x W:4, Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Stephen C. Clark, F1941.1942. Photograph by John Hart.

According to the Hearing Aid Museum in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, the long domed ear trumpet was manufactured anywhere from 1890 until the 1930’s.[5]  Possibly the most popular hearing device of the acoustic era, the long domed ear trumpet was sold in several variations, with trumpets that had cone diameters ranging from 3 ¼ to 6 inches.[6]  Although an exact match for this specific ear horn was not found, long domed ear horns allowed for the user to gain a great deal of hearing when no other means of amplification were known.[7]

As technology continues to develop, the ear horn will always be remembered as an important step in medical technology.

By Cassidy Mickelson

[1] “Timeline of Hearing Devices and Early Deaf Education.” Washington University of Medicine.

[2] “Ear Trumpets (Ear Horns)—General Information.” Hearing Aid Museum.

[3] “Ear Trumpets (Ear Horns)—General Information.”

[4] “Long Domed Ear Trumpet (Ear Horn).” Hearing Aid Museum.

[5] “Long Domed Ear Trumpet (Ear Horn).”

[6] Robert E. Sandlin. Textbook of Hearing Aide Amplification. (Boston, Massachusetts:Cengage Learning, 2000) 4.

[7] Sandlin. Textbook of Hearing Aide Amplification. 4.