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Ear trumpet with flexible tube, Europe, 1870-1920

Flexible tube hearing aids were also known as ‘conversation tubes’. They amplified sound to help partially deaf people hear more clearly. They are a very basic hearing aid. The user could either listen to general conversation or the speaker talked directly into the trumpet end. Conversation tubes were not just for the hard of hearing. Puritan couples who were courting used them during the 1600s to have private conversations. Social customs of the day dictated they sit opposite each other across a table. The conversation tube allowed them a little intimacy and interaction.

Object number:

A32291

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Glossary:

Glossary: deafness

A condition where the hearing in both ears in not functional to ordinary levels.

Glossary: ear trumpet

A funnel-shaped instrument for people with hearing difficulties. The trumpet is designed to gather sound waves and direct them into the ear canal. The short end of the funnel was held to the ear by the user, and the large end directed toward the sound.