After an interview in 1966 with the editor of NATIONAL HEARING AID JOURNAL (now HEARING JOURNAL), Professor Kenneth Berger mentioned a desire to have a hearing aid "display" in the Speech and Hearing Clinic; the published article used the word "museum." Soon, parcels of old hearing aids began arriving from all over the United States and overseas.
The largest donation came from A. J. Schneider of Reading, Massachusetts. He had been in the hearing aid business since the 1930's and sent more than 500 different models.
The collection was originally housed in Ken and wife Barbara's home until space was made available in the Speech Pathology and Audiology department at Kent State University.
The collection at Kent State University encompasses more than 3000 different hearing aid models. It is the largest collection in the world. Other collections are found in Berlin, Germany; at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis; the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC; Oticon A/S in Denmark; and a few in medical museums.
In addition to hearing aids, there is a large collection of archival materials at Kent State University. Included are hearing aid technical data sheets, advertising, photographs, letters, house organs, and trade journals. The archives have been used by those doing research on hearing aids and by a number of attorneys concerned with patents. Patents date from 1856 from the United States, from 1836 from England, and some from Italy and other countries.
The museum also houses a diverse collection of audiometers used to test hearing and fit hearing aids. The time era for the audiometer collection includes a pre-electric Struycken Monochord made in 1910, to one of the first electric audiometers in 1923, to the more modern audiometers of the 1960's. Upon his retirement in 1996, Gordon Stowe donated his large private collection of approximately 20 audiometers.
The university does not purchase any of the hearing aids, archives or audiometers. All items in the collection have come to us by donation.