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UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


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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 –



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