News, News and Events • June 06, 2021

History of Audiology

During this year of unpredictability, a look back on the history of audiology in Australia could be considered timely. Audiology is a relatively new profession first established in Australia as a medical speciality in the 1940s, largely due to two main factors: the number of returned servicemen from the Second World War with hearing loss from injury and noise exposure, and the other was the rubella epidemic of 1940/41 affecting children of that time. These catalysts resulted in the creation in Australia of the National Acoustics Laboratory (NAL). NAL provided hearing assessments and hearing aids to returned servicemen and children from 1947 and in 1967 added hearing services for pensioners. The first audiologists in Australia were psychologists who undertook postgraduate training in speech therapy and hearing therapy.

From the 1950s to 1990s, gradual improvements and changes occurred within hearing aid technology such as the first directional microphones to assist hearing better in noise, zinc air batteries, and in the ear (ITE) models were developed. In 1996, the first fully digital hearing aids were available and audiology enjoyed being able to provide people with better sound quality, smaller size and less feedback (whistling of the hearing aids).

Audiology in the last 5 years has embraced the flexibility of the wireless age of hearing aids. This has ranged from beamforming technology to assist hearing in background noise, rechargeable devices, remote fine-tuning, and Bluetooth compatibility allowing seamless streaming and enjoyment of audio whether podcasts or music.

While the technology, tests and interventions in audiology may have changed over 70 years, the fundamental core of audiology, to assist people in their communication ability and interactions within their daily life has remained unchanged. For Audiologists, the ability to assist people to live more fully enriching lives using assistive devices, whether it be hearing aids or whatever the future holds, is one of the greatest pleasures.

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