Archive for the 'Hearing aids' Category

“deaf as he was, and deafer than he really was” – İsmet İnönü’s diplomatic skill – turning off his hearing aid

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 11 May 2018

İsmet İnönü (1884-1973), the Turkish delegate at the Armistice of Mudanya, and later representative in negotiations for the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, had hearing loss.  He became Prime Minister of Turkey and President. He had been a gunnery officer, so I wonder if his hearing loss was related to that.  Among other things, The Times for the 18th of November, 1922, said of him, “His reputation during the Great War was that of a safe, hard-working, rather cautious Staff Colonel, deaf, and consequently short-tempered, and a terror to slack or casual subordinates.”

At any rate, during the negotiations at Lausanne, in what Cleveland calls “a classic in the annals of international diplomacy” it seems that when Lord Curzon spoke, İsmet would turn off his hearing aid, and only turn it back on afterwards, restating his original position “as though the British Foreign Secretary had never uttered a word”  (Cleveland, chapter 10, 2016).

Later, Sir Charles Harington, in a speech quoted indirectly in The Times said,

Referring to Chanak and the Mudania Conference, Sir Charles said it was a near thing, but there were three factors in the problem. The greatest factor was Lord Curzon himself in Paris; the nextwas the splendid body of reinforcements sent to him; and the other was the friendship he formed, after the fifth day at Mudania, with General Ismet Pasha. It was quite safe to say that, difficult as Ismet Pasha was, deaf as he was, and deafer than he really was (laughter), they had made great friends. (The Times, 21st of November, 1923)

He is second from the left in this photo of the Turkish Mudanya delegation, from a postcard in our collection, where Selwyn Oxley noted Ismet Pasha (an honorary title) was deaf.

It would be interesting to know where his hearing aid came from, as I have no idea how many manufacturers were making them at that time.  If you can add anything about his hearing loss, please do in the comment field below.

William L. Cleveland, Martin Bunton, A History of the Modern Middle East (6th ed. 2016)

The Times (London, England), Saturday, Nov 18, 1922; pg. 11; Issue 43192

The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Nov 21, 1923; pg. 11; Issue 43504

Hearing Awareness Day – Patient Information

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 27 February 2018

By Abir Mukherjee @ClinicalLibUCLH

This second post of this series highlights a small selection of reliable patient information resources for hearing loss in general. Once again, these sources either meet the NHS Information Standard or are produced by reputable organisations.

Action on Hearing Loss (formerly the Royal National Institute for Deaf People – RNID) estimates that one in six people in the UK has hearing loss or is deaf, and increasingly people are accessing help to hear better. Their website discusses in clear terms, the different types and causes of hearing loss and deafness, as well as what people can do if they are worried about hearing loss – from seeing a GP to getting hearing aids or a cochlear implant. They also have a very useful glossary for hearing disorders and symptoms. NHS CHOICES also provides a relevant overview of hearing loss including symptoms and treatment options. In line with this year’s World Hearing Day theme of ‘Hear the Future’ they also discuss some simple but common sense ways of reducing the risk of damage to hearing such as:

· not having the television, radio or music on too loud

· using headphones that block out more outside noise, instead of turning up the volume

· wearing ear protection (such as ear defenders) in a noisy environments

· using ear protection at loud concerts and other events where there are high noise levels

· not inserting objects ears – this includes fingers, cotton buds, cotton wool and tissues

· Get a hearing test as soon as possible if worried about hearing loss -the earlier hearing loss is picked up, the earlier something can be done about it.

ENT UK, produced by the Royal College of Surgeons also has easy to understand information on ear anatomy and how the ear works to explain hearing disorders and common causes. Patient Info also has a range of pertinent information on hearing disorders and downloadable leaflets.

Merry Yule & Happy New Year!

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 23 December 2016

Silent World 1948

The early NID Technical Department, Dennis B. Fry and Péter B. Dénes of UCL

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 23 December 2016

UCL has had an association with the RNID/Action on Hearing Loss Library since the early 1990s when the library moved into the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital alongside the then Institute of Laryngology Library.  However there is a much older association between UCL and what was then the NID.

Giant hearing Aid War time developments in electronics ushered in an era when mass hearing aids would be small enough to be convenient to carry around, and cheap enough for the state to introduce the Medresco hearing aid supplied by the new NHS from 1948.  The previous year the transistor had been unveiled by Bell labs in the US, an invention that would change the world.

For many years the NID had been concerned over the quality of hearing aids and they way they were marketed to the public.  They worked with manufacturers and suppliers to create an agreement whereby the supplier made no claims about curing deafness, as had often been the case with quack sellers, and broadly to not bully clients into buying unwanted devices.  They also created an approved list of suppliers who signed up to the agreement.  This was a slightly tortuous process, and for those interested a visit to the library to read NID minutes would be essential.  The list is attached here: NID approved list

Anechoic ChamberIn 1947 The NID set up a technical department, at the behest of the Medical Committee (Annual Report, 1947 p.9).  At the time they were in 105 Gower Street, and did not have facilities, so initially UCL helped out, and Dennis Butler Fry (1907-84) led the efforts to establish testing to show the ‘technical characteristics and qualities of the various hearing aids’ which were available, and then publish this scientific information to the public (Denes & Fry p.304).

Fry was born on the 3rd of November, 1907, in Stockbridge, Hampshire, son of Fred Cornelius Fry and Jane Ann Butler.

After five years of teaching French, first at Tewkesbury Grammar School and then at Kilburn Grammar School, in 1934 he was appointed Assistant Lecturer in Phonetics at University College London, where he also became Superintendent of the Phonetics Laboratory in 1937.  In 1938 he was promoted to Lecturer in Experimental Phonetics. In 1948, the year after the award of his Ph.D. degree, he became Reader in Experimental Phonetics.  From 1958 until his retirement in 1975, he was Professor of Experimental Phonetics, the first one to hold the title in Britain. (Obituary for Dennis Butler Fry, Arthur S. Abramson

The 1947 annual report records that with the co-operation of Sir David Pye, UCL provost and mechanical engineer who worked on jet engines during the war, they were setting up a special sound-proof room, and that technical staff would be trained at the college, all under the supervision of Fry.  Fry had served in the RAF during the war, at the Acoustics Research Laboratory, Central Medical Establishment, at Kelvin House, 24-32 Cleveland Street, London.  Together with his colleague Péter B. Dénes (1920-96), a Hungarian phonetician who became a British citizen, but spent much of his later working life in the USA.  The books of Fry and Dénes (usually written Denes) on phonetics are still in use today.  Fry founded the journal Speech and Language in 1958. He wrote two books with Edith Whetnall (they are pictured together below), The Deaf Child, and Learning to Hear.

Denes had left Hungary in the 1930s and studied first at Manchester, before moving to UCL where he worked with Fry.  In 1961 he went to the USA on the Queen Mary to work at the Bell Labs (1996 obituary, see link below).  In his obituary, Michael Noll says,

Although Hungarian by birth, Peter was very much British by citizenship and personality. His knowledge of European history and views on events in America led to many lively discussions with his many friends and colleagues. Peter chose to remain a subject of the Queen of England, but he also chose to live in the United States.

The room in the basement of 105 was eventually fitted out for technical testing, along with the anechoic chamber.  In those days the road traffic would not have been as bad as now, and I suspect it would not have been possible to use it today, because of vibrations.  The first technician seems to have been Mr W.J. Markwick, who is mentioned in the 1950 annual report (p.33).  The Technical department became one of the most important areas for the NID in the following decade.

I am sure this would be an interesting area for research.  Denes and Fry were both interesting people who made significant contributions to speech and language research.

Fry Whetnall

Denes, P. and Fry, D.B. An Introduction to the NID Technical Research Laboratory

NID Annual Reports

Abramson, Arthur S. Obituary for Dennis Butler Fry. Speech Communication Volume 3, Issue 2, August 1984, Pages 167-168


Noll, Michael, Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 100, No. 4, Pt. 1, October 1996, p.1916 http://asa.scitation.org/doi/pdf/10.1121/1.417840

Acoustic instrument makers in the Strand, acoustic ‘throne’ myths, & Frederick Charles Rein & Son

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 11 November 2016

Forgive the long nature of this blog post – I considered dividing it into three as it is the length of an essay, but in the end have left it as one, divided into three sections.


Frederick Charles Rein was born in Leipzig, Saxony around 1812/13, a son of Frederick Charles Rein, who was described as a merchant on his son’s marriage record. 1813 was a momentous time in Saxony, which was the scene that October of the Battle of the Nations. Wagner was born in the city the same year.  At some time around 1834/5 Rein moved to England, where he set up as an instrument maker. His naturalization papers in June 1855 (to be found on the National Archive*) say that he had been resident for over twenty years (but we may suppose less than twenty-one as otherwise he would have made that clear). Whether he undertook an apprenticeship as an instrument maker in Saxony or in London would be interesting to know.  He married Susanna(h) Payne of Wendover, whose father was a farmer or agricultural labourer (depending on the year of the census).  By 1851 Rein was an exhibitor and medallist at the Great Exhibition. In addition to the acoustic instruments – ear trumpets and variations on that theme – Rein also made a “Continual stream enema reservoir” and “several kinds of aperitive vases and enemas”.  Perhaps these items share properties with the acoustic instruments. He also made ‘lactatory’ devices – breast pumps. These were advertised in contemporary newspapers, accessible via online databases.

Acoustic chairsBerger’s The Hearing Aid: its Operation and Development (1970, p.7), says Rein began making non-electric hearing aids in London no later than 1800, a claim repeated by others in an internet meme, presumably on his authority.  Max Goldstein’s book Problems of the Deaf (1933) has a picture of Rein’s ‘acoustic chair’ saying it was made in 1830. It is not called a ‘throne’.  Our copy was donated to the library by Leslie V. K.-Rein in 1933 – of whom more anon. The claim is also usually repeated, without original evidence, that the ‘throne’ was made for King João VI of Portugal and Brazil (John VI in English) who was, we are told, deaf, or at least suffered from increasing hearing loss as he aged, and who died in 1826.  Goldstein makes no mention of that. I cannot find any contemporary evidence in English that the king was deaf.  There are many pages on the web that repeat the story, without solid proof. All the evidence I have found seems to come back to Berger.**  It is unlikely that Rein made this ‘throne’ for João, unless Rein’s ‘merchant’ father was in fact an acoustic instrument maker who came to England. The chair was undoubtedly made by Rein, but later in the century.  Goldstein has a picture of a speaking tube that he says was dated 1805 by ‘Rein & Son’, but this must be a misreading of the date which is most likely 1855 or 1865 by which time his son, Frederick Charles junior was working with him, as we can see from the name of the business in advertisements.

If Rein took over an existing business in the Strand, where the earliest record I can find of him is at 340 in 1841 on his son’s birth certificate for 22nd November, it may have been that of A.F. Hemming, an ‘elastical surgical instrument maker,’ who was at that address according to an advert in Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle (Sunday 1st November, 1840).

Rein’s 1843 advertisement in The Age (Sunday, March 5th 1843, p.1; Issue 62) says that he was an “INVENTER [sic] and MAKER of the NEW ACOUSTIC INSTRUMENTS to H.R.H. the DUKE of SUSSEX, 340, STRAND, (nearly opposite Somerset House)”.   (The Strand has been renumbered since Kinsgsway was built.)   The Duke was Queen Victoria’s uncle. Unfortunately the Duke died a few weeks after this advertisement appeared. Rein quotes in full an encomium from Justice Patteson of 33, Bedford Square, dated June 21st, 1841, which means he must have been making and selling acoustic instruments by that date.  I have however failed to find him in the June 1841 census, which is notorious for its poor transcription.  In 1842, he was mentioned as an aurist, among other tradesman in the Strand, having a gas light, lit with the letters ‘P.W.’ to celebrate the christening of the Prince of Wales.

If there was a Rein making hearing devices before circa 1835 when Frederick came to London, I cannot find any reference to that.  Why advertise making a device for a Royal Duke, rather than a king? If anyone can find evidence for any Rein in any acoustic related business in London before this, perhaps by referring to trade directories or rate books, please point this out in the space for comments.

One witness to Rein’s marriage was a James Aloys Muhlhauser.  At first I could not find any record of him in the ancestry.co.uk databases, and I wondered if he left England before 1841.  However I have since found a marriage record for him with Sophia Cronin, a widow, on 11/12/1837 at Saint Martin In The Fields.  There is one possible Muhlhauser in the newspapers, who was one of the Germans who their fellow countryman J.H. Garnier appealed to the Lord Mayor on behalf of in 1836.  They had moved to Switzerland and then were expelled as being rather too liberal in their political views, even though not directly involved in politics (see The Morning Post, Wednesday, August 24, 1836; Issue 20503).  That Muhlhauser was living in Goodman’s Fields.  This is a speculation – if it is the same Muhlhauser, is it possible that Rein knew him before he came to England – perhaps having resided in Switzerland as well?  Note that Rein’s wife Susannah was resident in Wentworth Street, Aldgate, and they were married at St. Mary’s Whitechapel, which is not far from there. It would be interesting to see if the Rein family appears in any German archives.

The Victorian church of St. John the Baptist, Enderby, has part of the Rein pulpit speaking system surviving, according to Pevsner.  It sounds like the device that Rein patented in 1867 in The GazetteBy the 1880s the shop was described as a Paradise for the Deaf (The Era, Saturday, July 9, 1887; Issue 2546).  Rein’s work was clearly well regarded by otologists.  In The Diseases of the Ear, their Nature, Diagnosis and Treatment (1868, p.417), Joseph Toynbee says, “The most useful of this class of instruments are the small cornets made by Mr. Rein, which are connected by a spring passing over the head, that serves to hold them in the ears”, while William Wilde in Practical Observations on Aural Surgery and the Nature and Treatment of Diseases of the Ear (1853, p.435) says, “Mr. Rein, an instrument-maker in the Strand, London, has given much attention to the subject, and made many improvements therein.”


Aurist/surgeon John Harrison Curtis, regarded by Toynbee as a quack, was active through the early years of the century, and founder of the Royal Dispensary for the Diseases of the Ear, seems to have been influential in the design of acoustic instruments.  He discusses the types available and some he designed in A Treatise on the Physiology and Pathology of the Ear (1817).  The adjacent picture illustrates some of these.  Curtis designed an acoustic chair in the early years of the centuryAcoustic instruments – see in the picture above to the right of the later Rein chair.  The relevant section from the 5th edition of his book is here – A Treatise on the Ear 5th edition. According to the sixth edition of that book (1836, p.181), Curtis had his devices made by J. & S. Maw, of 11 Aldersgate Street.***

It appears that this chair inspired Rein to make his, though they are different in design.  Curtis tells us that a model of his chair was on display in the National Gallery of Practical Science, Adelaide Street, Lowther Arcade which was in the Strand, along with his various hearing trumpets and artificial ears, and ‘a metal cast of the Internal Ear’ (A Treatise on the Physiology and Pathology of the Ear 6th edition, 1836).  It seems likely that this display was influential on Rein and the other acoustic instrument makers in the Strand area.

Other acoustic instrument makers (if that is not too specific a term for people who sold a variety of things, including ‘medical’ devices) of the late 1830s and 1840s, predating Rein, include the aurist William Wright, whose “Gong Metal Ear Trumpets” were manufactured and sold by L.H. Baugh at 199 The Strand, from at least 1832 to 1835. He wrote in On the Varieties of Deafness and Diseases of the Ear (1829, p.276), “the adaptation of an ivory ear-piece to a small bugle-horn, which I have directed to be made, appears to answer the purpose better than any other, and I believe the person to whom I gave the pattern, makes and sells a great number of them”.

To Persons Afflicted with Deafness. – L.H. Baugh, successor to S. Shepherd, 199, Strand, London, continues to manufacture the celebrated GONG METAL EAR TRUMPETS, and other ACOUSTIC INSTRUMENTS, so much approved of by the most eminent Surgeon-Aurists.  These Instruments are universally admitted to be the most efficacious ever invented for the assistance of persons afflicted with deafness.  The Trumpet is a handsome instrument, elegantly formed and finished, and may be carried in the pocket without the slightest inconvenience.  Also the newly invented Ear Cap, which may be worn under a lady’s cap or bonnet without being perceived (The Morning Post, Monday, February 13, 1832; pg. [1]; Issue 19088).

Alfonso William Webster, who patented his otaphone in 1836 and was advertising it in the papers within weeks, available from 102 New Bond Street, then premises at 12 Chapel Street, Bedford Row, Holborn (The Standard, Thursday, April 07, 1836; pg. [1]; Issue 2781).  He wrote A new and familiar treatise on the structure of the ear, and on deafness (1836) which we unfortunately do not have.  He also wrote On the Principles of Sound; their application in the construction of public buildings, particularly to the New Houses of Parliament, etc (1840) , which is held in UCL Special Collections.  The last date I can see for the ‘otophone’ [sic] being advertised is The Morning Chronicle, Wednesday, January 9, 1839; Issue 21573.  It is possible this Alphonsus Webster was married to a lady called Ann and had at least one daughter, Eliza, born 1815, and a son Septimus, born 1830 (see the IGI).  I cannot find Webster in the 1841 census. Perhaps he died around that time, which may explain why he no longer advertised.

S. & B. Solomons of Albemarle Street, “Opticians and Aurists to their Majesties the King and Queen of Hanover” – they add, “No connexion [sic] with persons of the same name” – and, a person of the same name, Mr E. Solomons of 36 Old Bond Street, “Optician, Patentee of the Amber Spectacles,” who “respectfully informs the public that he has effected a vast improvement in VOICE CONDUCTORS, for aiding and permanently relieving all CASES of DEAFNESS.  They are acknowledged to be far superior to any hitherto offered, do not require to be held, and are formed on a scale so small as to be scarcely visible.” etc… (The Age, Sunday Oct 4th, 1838 p.320).  Next to this advertisement is one for Dr James Scott‘s establishment at 369 The Strand, under his ‘superintendent’ William B. Pine, offering the Soniferon, a sort of table based ear trumpet that “stands on a pillar like a lamp,” and Dr Scott’s Ear Cornets, “invaluable to those individuals whose whose deafness does not require so powerful an instrument as large as Soniferon.”  In 1836 Scott was not at that address it seems, from an advert in 1836, but that they were being manufactured under Scott’s supervision by Savory and Co., ‘chemists and medical instrument makers’ (Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, Sunday, October 30, 1836).  That changed to ‘Scott and Co.’ in March 1837, or ‘Scott, Savory and Co.’ in some adverts, and not long after they must have dissolved their arrangement.  Savory had other premises in New Bond Street.  In 1837 Scott was advertising ‘Voice Conductors’ (The Age, Sunday, May 28, 1837; pg. 176).  

Scott was born in 1789 in Calne, Wiltshire.  He may have been from relatively humble origins but I have not traced his whole career: there is probably more to discover.  He certainly married before 1819 when his daughter Emmaline or Emmeline was born.  In 1822, he was a supposed inventor of a stomach pump.  It seems to have caused some controversy in The Lancet (p.52, 1824).  His double action bidet pump, lavement, cornets and soniferon can be seen in A companion to the medicine chest, and compendium of domestic medicine (1840) by John Savory – see the picture above.  His son Montagu Scott was a solicitor and his son was Percy Montagu Scott, a naval gunnery expert, who was a student at UCL.  Whether there is a connection there with his grandfather’s pumps we may never know.

William Blackmore Pine was born on the 4th of August 1812 in Tovil near Maidstone.  He was the son of John Pine and his wife Rebecca, nee Carberry.  His parents were non-conformists, his birth being registered as such in London in 1829.  In 1844 he married an Irish girl, Louisa Hawkins, in Lambeth.  He was the front for Scott’s business for many years but eventually he emigrated to Australia.  Pine designed hearing instrument himself, with this rather attractive flower cornet from 1849.  One page in The Times (Tuesday, Jul 02, 1850; pg. 11; Issue 20530), has adverts for Pine’s cornet, Rein’s auricles, and S. and B. Solomons’s “organic vibrator an extraordinarily powerful, small, newly invented instrument for deafness, entirely different from all others, to surpass anything of the kind that has been, or probably ever can be, produced” (ibid).

From “the Quack Doctor” pages by medical historian Caroline Rance, I discovered Scott had an embarrassing and tragic episode when a boy was fished out of the Thames at Waterloo Bridge and brought to his house. He said to them, “Be off with you – take it to Charing Cross Hospital” (Medical TimesJuly, 1844, p.308-9).  “It” –  the boy – died.  Scott declined to appear at the inquest, sending a ‘medical man’ Mr. Pine.  As you will see, the Medical Times questioned Scott’s medical background, asking “Who is Dr Scott?  He is no member of the London College”.  It can be no coincidence that not long afterwards, the letter appeared from Heidelberg, assuring British readers that they were a genuine medical school, though that some were purporting to have degrees from them when that was not true.  These clippings from The Medical Times of August the 20th, 1844, p.391-2, illustrate the problem of guaranteeing that a medical degree was genuine.  Scott had obtained his from Heidelberg in 1833.  Obtaining a place in a British Medical School may not have been easy without the ‘right’ background, so perhaps studying abroad was a serious option for clever students with little family wealth.  There were a number of James Scotts around in the 1840s in central London, but it seems that our Scott is one and the same.  He seems to have known John Snow, of Cholera fame, and to have hosted a medical meeting of the Westminster Medical Society at his premises, on least on one occasion.


Rein continued his business until his death in 1896, employing a brother-in-law Michael Payne, and later a nephew Cornelius Payne.  Rein’s son, the third Frederick Charles, does not seem to have been terribly happy.  He married Mary Aleyna Winter in 1867, but of their two children, the first girl died aged two, and the second Nelly Maud (or Nellie Maud) never married.  He seems to have used the name Charles. There are two unfortunate stories to be found about him, which point the way to his end.  The first is from April 1893:

Frederick Charles Rein, living in the Strand, was charged with being drunk and disorderly.  The case was last on the list, but it was heard first as the prisoner was anxious to get away, he being one of the jurymen engaged at the Law Courts. – Police-Constable 461 E stated that at 7 o’clock on Thursday evening prisoner was having an altercation with a match boy in the Strand. He was very drunk, made a great noise, and refused to go away.  Prisoner denied being drunk, but said he was excited owing to a dispute with his father. – He was fined ten shillings (Daily News, Saturday, April 22, 1893; Issue 14682).

A second incident occurred in December 1894. Under what the The Dundee Courier & Argus uncharitably calls A CHRISTMASTIDE PHILANTHROPIST, but The Standard just WESTMINSTER, the following appears:

Frederick Carden, 54, describing himself as a carriage trimmer and refusing his address, was charged with robbing Mr. Frederick Rein at the Victoria Station of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. – Prosecutor resides at Landwednock, Sutton, in the County of Surrey.  His recollection of what occurred was of a rather hazy description, but said that he had some notion whilst sitting on the railway station platform that the Prisoner, professing to be a “well-disposed person who would see him home,” gave him a quantity of rum, which he (Mr. Rein) was fool enough to drink. – The story from this point was continued by Detective-sergeant Osborn, who noticed the couple on the seat together, and doubted the philanthropic intention of the Prisoner.  Concealed in a railway brake the detective watched and saw the Prisoner make three attempts to get the Prosecutor’s umbrella from between his knees, which were crossed.  Failing to pull it away, Prisoner undid the Prosecutor’s waistcoat and took out his gold watch, which he failed to easily detach.  Mr. Rein seemed to rouse himself a bit during this operation, but the Prisoner gave him some more rum after himself pretending to drink.  With the last lot of spirits Prosecutor seemed quite overcome.  Prisoner lent [sic] over him and was clearing his pockets when Witness rushed out and seized him. Mr. Rein’s gloves were at the time in the Prisoner’s trouser pockets. – The Detective’s evidence was corroborated to a large extent by a telegraph clerk, and Osborn said that a remand would enable other witnesses to attend. – Prisoner said it was all a mistake through a good-natured act.  He got acquainted with the Prosecutor early in the evening in the Strand and being Christmas time accepted his invitation to have a drink.  Mr. Rein also treated a boot black.  Prosecutor asked him (Prisoner) to see him safe home, and after various stoppages they got to Victoria.  On the way the gentleman gave money to policemen for treats, and at Victoria he was very liberal with refreshment to the officials.  He (Prisoner) during the whole evening carried Mr. Rein’s parcel and his gloves.  After a long sleep in the lavatory, which resulted in the loss of his train, Prosecutor sat down on one of the station seats, and rum was brought to him because he complained of feeling chilly. – Mr. De Rutzen remanded the Prisoner in custody (The Standard, Tuesday, December 25, 1894; pg. 6; Issue 21990).

One can only imagine the conflict between father and son.  Frederick senior died on 1st March 1896 of diabetes, senile decay, and exhaustion, his nephew Cornelius being present.  His wife inherited £814 9d net.  She probably sold the business fairly soon, to the Optician who worked in the shop next door, Charles Kahn.  Frederick junior retired, but died on 20th April, 1900 in Wendover, home of the Payne family, of “chronic Alcoholism, 2 years, influenza and bronchitis, 21 days”.  He cannot have left his wife and daughter with much, for in 1911 they were living in Newton Abbott, Devon, working as respectively a dressmaker and a daily governess.LVK Rein signature

Kahn kept the trading name of F.C. Rein and Son, and curiously, his son Leslie Victor Kahn was eventually to adopt the surname Rein himself.  He was clearly technically adept, learning about electronics and writing a letter to Wireless World in 1932 (p.525-6), that is an appeal for what we would now call professional audiologists, and saying that he had then ten years experience working with audiometers and had invented two.  He died in 1956, and in 1963 or thereabouts, the business was, we are told in various books, taken over by Amplivox.  It was only under Kahn that the claim that Rein was ‘est. 1800’ first appears in adverts, based on what evidence, if any, we cannot say.  I suspect that Leslie Kahn Rein passed that on to Goldstein on one of the trips to America that the Kahn family website mentions in the link above.

Here is a picture from The New Acoustics by N.W. McLachlan, OUP 1936, and it was published courtesy of Captain L.V.K. Rein, who we might suppose is the gentleman.  Note that his subject or customer is seated in the acoustic chair.

I try to support claims as far as possible, but please point out any errors you find.  Where people make unsupported claims, or claims with secondary evidence or non-contemporary evidence, be a little sceptical.  Never take it as read – check the sources of claims, particularly if they seem implausible.  This blog grew far beyond what I had intended, and much was written and researched in my own time.  It is not intended as a ‘finished’ history, rather as a stimulus to others to discover more.

REIN family


1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 861; Folio: 32; Page: 18; GSU roll: 542712

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 334; Folio: 87; Page: 1; GSU roll: 1341072

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 544; Folio: 108; Page: 64; GSU roll: 6095654

The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Jan 26, 1842; pg. 3; Issue 17890 [accessed 11/4/2018]

Other references

Berger, Kenneth W., The Hearing Aid (1970)

John Bull (London, England), Saturday, May 22, 1841; pg. 243; Issue 1,067.

Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle (London, England), Sunday, October 30, 1836.

Goldstein, Max, Problems of the Deaf (1933)

Neil Weir, ‘Curtis, John Harrison (1778–1860)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2007 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/57673, accessed 8 Nov 2016]

Weir, Neil, and Mudry, Albert, Otorhinolaryngology: An Illustrated History, 2013.

The references were supplemented by G.R.O. certificates for Rein family members, and wills from the probate archive online, as well as searches of online newspapers and the ancestry.co.uk website. 

*Many thanks, as ever, to Norma McGilp of @DeafHeritage for pointing me towards the naturalization papers.  Rein’s naturalization papers are supported by four people.  One, Edward Henry Rudderforth was a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.  There are almost no details of him in Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows.  He was involved in the extraordinary life of Mrs Weldon.  Another was George Huntly Gordon, who worked for the Stationery Office.

**I have asked Brazilian audiologist friends if they can find anything on King John VI and will update if there is contemporary evidence forthcoming.  Even if we suppose Rein’s father made acoustic instruments, for which we have no evidence, his son, our Frederick, was born in Saxony in 1813, so his father would have to have returned there, had a family that lived apart from him, returned to London, made the throne, and his son only to have joined him in England as an adult, then not had a company name as Rein & Son until decades later.

*** See more on Maw (!) here- http://collectionsonline.nmsi.ac.uk/detail.php?type=related&kv=105380&t=people

[Minor edits 22/2/17, line added 11/4/2018, Picture of Rein added 9/8/2018]

[More added on Muhlhauser 12/10/2018]

Adrien Célestin Soret, radiologist, meteorologist and inventor of the first binaural hearing aid in 1915

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 26 June 2015

Since his death, Adrien Célestin Marie Soret, (7th July 1854- 1931), Chevalier Légion d’honneur (1924), has fallen into obscurity, yet from what little I have discovered, he deserves to be much better known.  He was the son of a lemonade maker and was educated at Tonnerre, Beauvais, Orléans and Havre.  A commemorative plaque at his birthplace tells us “Driven by a concern for popularizing science, in 1886 he organized municipal courses which dealt with current scientific issues such as the effects of electricity and the discovery of X -rays.”  He then turned to photography, creating the Le Havre Society of Photography.

He is here as he is the inventor of the first binaural hearing aid, a fact that seems to have been forgotten by many.  I came across this in the book Binaural Hearing Aids by Andreas Markides (1977), where Soret gets a very brief mention.  That was because of this U.S. patent for a binaural hearing device, in 1915.  However, it is hard to find out how widely it was used and I could not find his name in Berger’s The Hearing Aid: its Operation and Development (1984).

AudiphoneIn Learning to Hear (1970), Edith Whetnall & D.B. Fry of the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital’s Nuffield Centre, wrote

The man with the monacle excites immediate attention.  The ophthalmologist who prescribed only a monacle for a patient with defective vision in both eyes would be regarded as a little odd.  The situation is completely opposite with hearing aids.  Here the tradition has been to prescribe only one aid.  It is probable that the origin of this tradition lies in expense but it is now so hallowed by custom that advocates of binaural hearing aids are told that they must produce evidence that these have an advantage over monaural aids.  As the normal person is born with two ears the onus of proof would seem to lie in the other direction and the advocates of the monaural hearing aid should prove their case.(pp.131 & 134)

Perhaps those who have threatened to reduce NHS patients to one hearing aid might reflect on that.

Soret’s death made it into Arthur Mee’s The Children’s Newspaper on August the 15th 1931, as “A MAN’S SACRIFICE FOR THE WORLD – Another Great Hero of Peace – SCIENTIST’S LIFE GIVEN TO HUMANITY”

The sunny South of France has experienced a great shadow of grief in the death of an eminent scientist, Professor Celestin Soret, who died at 77.  His life was sacrificed to the, X-ray, for he associated himself whole-heartedly with Dr Röntgen in bringing this invention to the aid of the medical world. The doctors were very sceptical as to the help which they could get from this new invention, and Professor Soret diagnosed over forty thousand cases through the X-ray in his own house, besides the thousands that he was asked to help in the hospitals.  He began life as a schoolmaster in Havre, where he taught physics. Many thousands, not only in France but in other parts of the world, owe him a great debt of gratitude, for he was an international figure.  He was the inventor of apparatus by means of which the sufferers from partial deafness could listen to concerts and conversations with the help of earphones and other pocket instruments. He tried to imagine how much the deaf must miss in life, and he used his knowledge to help them in their difficulty.

Soret was also involved in work at the Hydrographic School of Havre, where he lectured on naval hygiene, and he established a meteorological  observatory on the coast. The article concludes, “Like many other great men of science this French professor died comparatively poor. He placed his knowledge at the disposal of the world to save lives and not to make profit out of it ; and he gave up more than wealth to the cause of knowledge : he sacrificed both his hands.”

In fact, the brief obituary in The British Journal of Radiology Vol.4, p.368, the only other obituary I have so far tracked down, says he died as a result of his early X-ray work, which caused radiodermatitis.  “Through various operations carried out since 1923, Dr. Soret had lost both his arms, which had to be amputated.”

The memorial plaque also says (with the help, I admit, of Google Translate),

A year after the discovery of X -rays (1895) , he set up at his home a ray generator and the first radiography experiments. Four years later he was head of the radiological service in the Hospital of Le Havre.  […] Appointed honorary professor in 1907 , he devoted himself entirely to research and practice of X-rays.  […] In 1928 he received the Medal of the Order of the Crown of Belgium in recognition of the care given to Belgian fighters during their stay in hospital of Le Havre.

It has proved difficult to find these few details of Soret’s life.  One problem is that he shares the same birth year and initial as Charles Soret, the Swiss mathematician and physicist, and some people seem to have confused the two of them.

There is a photograph of him here, and a more poignant photograph with one hand amputated here.

He was a remarkable man.  If you know anything more about him please add a note below.


Sorel et Soret, Un cas d’elephantiasis avec troubles nerveux, gueri par les rayon X. La Normandie medicale, 1″ mars, 1898, p.97.
[I have not seen this article]


Whetnall, E. and Fry, D.S., Learning to Hear (1970)

Hie is remembered as a pioneer of radiology on the Ehrenmal der Radiologie in Hamburg.

His Legion d’honneur citation documents are here.

Roots of Audiology – the Audiometer

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 15 May 2015

Modern audiology was only really possible with late 19th century advances in technology and the understanding of electromagnetism that allowed for the measurement of hearing ability.  This allowed the invention of the audiometer, then the development of transistors to replace valves enabled the amplification of sound in a convenient portable device, which became the ‘modern’ hearing aid in the 1940s.

The audiologist has roots in both the medical and the technical –

  • there were the otolaryngologists, doctors who treated and investigated hearing,
  • then there were those who sold instruments like ear trumpets and their ilk, the dispensers,
  • and there were the scientists who developed the theories of acoustics, and the instruments that were used to measure hearing.

One of the latter was David Edward Hughes who was a pioneer of the microphone (which we covered in a previous blog).  Hughes, a great experimenter, developed his ‘audiometer’ at around the same time (1879), and it was first mentioned in his article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, On an Induction-Currents Balance, and Experimental Researches Made Therewith.

During the course of these experiments with this instrument I noticed my own hearing powers varied very much with state of health, weather, &c., that different individuals had wide differences of hearing, and that in nearly all cases one ear was more sensitive than the other; thus whilst my degree of hearing was 10, another might be 60 in one ear and 15 in another.*

*To this portion of my instrument when used as a measurer of our hearing powers, we have given the name of audiometer.

( Hughes 1879 p.58)

AudiometerThe Illustrated London News (see picture with the sonometer to the left and the audiometer numbered 4) described the device –

The audiometer, an adaptation of the sonometer, being an instrument for exactly measuring our power of hearing and chronicling the progress of recovery from deafness. It was first applied by Dr. Richardson to some very remarkable investigations relative to our hearing powers.  a is the scale measured into 200 millimetres.  bb are the two primary fixed coils, both exactly similar to those in the sonometer as to length and size of wire, although what should be the thinner coil is here padded out, so that they look both alike as to depth.

The wires from these coils are connected with the microphone, c, and Leelanche’s battery cells, dd; e, secondary and moving coil, connected through the binding screws, ff, to the telephone, h. The switch, g is a brass arm pivoted on an ebony plate, on which are also fixed two brass studs. The free end of arm placed over either of these gives either the force of one or, when desired, two cells, the stronger current being used only for very deaf patients. (Illustrated London News , 1879)

Benjamin Ward Richardson, a great friend of Hughes, experimented with this instrument, and coined the name.

“In this preliminary report I have omitted many subjects of interest, but I hope I have related enough to show that the world of science in general, and the world of medicine in particular,is under a deep debt of gratitude to Professor Hughes for his simple and beautiful instrument, which I have christened the audimeter, or less correctly but more euphoniously, the audiometer.” (Richardson, 1879)

Richardson was a close friend of John Snow of cholera fame, and a remarkable man in his own right, being a physician, sanitarian, anaesthetist and historian of medicine.

In his 1979 article on Hughes and his audiometer, Stephens says Hughes “does not appear to have been interested in the application of his audiometer”.  Hughes was awarded a Royal Society Gold Medal in 1885, and his funeral in Highgate was attended by the U.S. ambassador as well as representatives of the governments of Serbia, France and Greece (Stephens, p.3).  Richardson was also diverted by his many other interests and did not pursue research with the audiometer.

T.Hawksley, who manufactured and sold hearing devices, went into production with the “Hughes’ Sonometer” in 1883, and it seems it was still available as late as 1912 (Stephens p.4).

Audiometers do not seem to have taken off however, and Stephens says there are few references to them in the otolaryngological textbooks of the period.  It was only with the increased use of valve audiometers in the 1930s that audiology as a separate discipline began to find its own place.

Hughes, D.E., On an Induction-Currents Balance, and Experimental Researches Made Therewith, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1879 Volume 29, pp. 56-65

Hughes’s Electric Sonometer and Balance, and Audiometer.Illustrated London News (London, England), Saturday, November 15, 1879; pg. 463; Issue 2109

Richardson, B.W., Some Researches with Professor Hughes’ New Instrument for the Measurement of Hearing; the Audiometer, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1879 Volume 29, pp. 65-70

Stephens, S.D.G., David Edward Hughes and his audiometer. Journal of Laryngology and Otology, 1979, Volume 93 pp.1-6

The Hughes Microphone, and a ‘Telephone for the Deaf’

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 3 May 2013

Two slightly connected items today. Clerk Maxwell was the person who first suggested the possibililty of radio waves in 1867.  Although Hertz gets the credit for establishing that high frequency electric currents did produce radio waves, and exhibited the properties of light waves but at longer frequencies, it was a Welsh-American, David Edward Hughes, who had first stumbled on the evidence (Geddes 1979).  The devices Hughes experimented with in 1879 acted as a radio transmitter – his induction balance – and detector – the microphone he developed and for which he seems to have coined the term (John 1979). He declined to take out a patent on the microphone, saying it belonged “more to the realm of discovery than invention” (John).

Geddes (British Journal of Audiology 1979, sup 2.p.13-16) examines the place of Hughes in the history of radio.  Hughes demonstrated his experiments to members of the Royal Society on 20th February 1880, but the were dismissed by Professor Stokes and Thomas Huxley.

Mr Spottiswoode, President of the Royal Society, Professor Stokes and Prof Huxley, visited me today at half past three p.m. and remained until quarter to 6 p.m., in order to witness my experiments withe Extra Current Thermopile, etc. The experiments were quite successful, and at first they were astonished at the results, but at 5 p.m. Prof Stokes commenced maintaining that the results were not due to conduction but to induction, and that results were then not so remarkable, as he could imagine rapid changes of electric tension by induction. Although I showed several experiments which pointed conclusively to its being conduction, he would not listen, but rather pooh-poohed all the results from that moment. This unpleasant discussion was then kept up by him, the others following suit, until they hardly paid any attention to the experiments, even to the one working through gaspipe in Portland Street to Langham Place on roof. They did not sincerely compliment meat the end on results, seeming all to be very much displeased because I would not give at once my Thermopile to the Royal Society so that others could make their results. I told them that when Prof Hughes made an instrument of research, it was for Prof Hughes’s researches and no one else. They left very coldly and with none of the enthusiasm with which they commenced the experiments. I am sorry at these results of so much labour but cannot help it. (Geddes, from Hughes’s notebooks)

Stokes suggested Hughes submit a paper on the experiments but Hughes did not, and he did very little more work on this according to Geddes.  Despite this seeming failure to convince his peers (Stokes was Lucasian Professor at Cambridge), he was elected to the Royal Society in 1880, winning their gold medal in 1885 and becoming vice-president of the Society in 1891.

In 1876 Bell had developed the first telephone. It was not long before it was considered for its possibilities as a hearing aid.  The first patent with this in mind was #226, 902 issued to Francis Clarke and Macomb G. Foster in 1880, but this was essentially a bone conduction device and does not merit classification as an electrical hearing aid according to Kenneth Berger (1984). Berger examines the various claims for early electric hearing aids (Berger, chapter 2), but it was not until 1901-2 that Miller Reese Hutchinson patented the first true wearable hearing aid.

J.E.J. John says, “The carbon microphone has changed since Hughes’ time but the microphone which we use everyday in our telephones is essentially Hughes'” (John, 1979).

I wonder if this reference from a letter to A Magazine Intended Chiefly for the Deaf and Dumb (No.63 Vol.6, March 1878), its one of the earliest references to a ‘hearing aid’?  ‘Ignatius’ should have patented the idea!

Telephone 001

Berger, Kenneth Walter, The hearing aid : its operation and development, 1984

Geddes, W.K.E., Hughes’ Place in the History of Radio, British Journal of Audiology 1979, sup 2. p.13-16

John, J.E.J., David Edward Hughes F.R.S. British Journal of Audiology 1979, Vol.13 sup 2 .p.5-10

New Action on Hearing Loss Report, “A World of Silence”

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 7 November 2012

Action on Hearing Loss has produced a new report, A World of Silence, on the challenges and problems facing older people in care home settings.

Care home residents are disproportionately affected by hearing loss. We estimate that around three-quarters of older people who live in these settings have a hearing loss and, as the number of people in care homes increases, more and more residents will be affected by hearing loss.

Here are some recent articles of possible interest on this topic and related issues:

Öberg M, Marcusson J, Nägga K, Wressle E.
Hearing difficulties, uptake, and outcomes of hearing aids in people 85 years of age.
Int J Audiol. 2012 Feb;51(2):108-15. Epub 2011 Nov 22.
PMID: 22107444

Domínguez MO, Magro JB.
Bedside balance testing in elderly people.
Curr Aging Sci. 2009 Jul;2(2):150-7. Review.
PMID: 20021409

Health Quality Ontario.
Social isolation in community-dwelling seniors: an evidence-based analysis.
Ont Health Technol Assess Ser. 2008;8(5):1-49. Epub 2008 Oct 1.
PMID: 23074510
Free PMC Article

Tay T, Wang JJ, Lindley R, Chia EM, Landau P, Ingham N, Kifley A, Mitchell P.
Sensory impairment, use of community support services, and quality of life in aged care clients.
J Aging Health. 2007 Apr;19(2):229-41.
PMID: 17413133

Cook G, Brown-Wilson C, Forte D.
The impact of sensory impairment on social interaction between residents in care homes.
Int J Older People Nurs. 2006 Dec;1(4):216-24.
PMID: 20925766

Murphy J, Tester S, Hubbard G, Downs M, MacDonald C.
Enabling frail older people with a communication difficulty to express their views: the use of Talking Mats as an interview tool.
Health Soc Care Community. 2005 Mar;13(2):95-107.
PMID: 15717911

Election fever! 1920s style…

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 3 May 2012

As people cast their votes on Thursday 3rd of May 2012 in various local elections in the U.K., we thought this photograph might be of interest. I am not sure which year this would have been but perhaps it was one of the general elections of 1922, 1923 or 1924, or so I would guess.

In case you cannot pick it out, the van says ‘Election Result – Deaf Votes. Overwhelming majority – Deaf electorate poll 500,000 votes for the Acousticon, 18 Hanover St, Regent St.’, and the caption says –

LOCAL COLOUR An Acousticon van went round the West End of London on Friday when the election results were coming through. When photographed it was outside “The Graphic” office.

The Acousticon was an early body worn hearing aid invented by the great Miller Reese Hutchison (1876-1944). His first hearing aid was the Akoulallion (Wikipedia has it incorrectly as Akoulathon), modified as the Akouphone. In Britain this was marketed for 10 guineas, putting it well out of the reach of most voters of course.

The first Acousticon (1902),

consisted of a large round black microphone with eight oval openings around its front perimeter. Sound entered these openings and reflected to the diaphragm from either an angular or cup shaped backplate. In addition to the microphone, which could be clasped to the clothing, there was a hand-held earphone and a battery. (Berger, quoting Scientific American for 1903)

Hutchison, who later worked as the chief engineer for Edison, also invented  the klaxon horn. He was teased, so it is said, by Mark Twain; “Hutchison invented the Klaxon horn to deafen people so they would have to buy Acousticons.”

You can read a detailed history of hearing aids in:

Berger, Kenneth Walter:  The hearing aid : its operation and development.  3rd ed.   Livonia, Mich :   National Hearing Aid Society,  1984. RNID library QFS AQ



The national collection of hearing aids in the UK is now at the Thackray Museum –