Local News

February 12, 2014

Do you know what this is?


This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a Dentaphone Hearing Aid.

Several people made guesses at the identity of the artifact via Facebook.

Kayla Scholtus wrote: “Do you fold clothes with it?”

jay D Ide wrote: “Flower press for drying?”

Angie Graham Noel wrote: “fold your shirts with it.”

Loree Johnson wrote: “A face tanning device.”

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact. She wrote: “Dentaphone Hearing Aid

The American Dentaphone Company of Cincinatti, Ohio began production of this hearing aid device in 1880. Designed and developed on the principals of bone conductivity, the hard rubber “fan” was made with three folding sections, a rubber cord, and a handle. It came in two sizes, one for every day use and one for attendance at the theater and group events.

Thomas W. Graydon received the patent for his invention in March of 1880. Utilizing information learned from the invention of the phonograph and telephone, Graydon’s hearing aid also applied century old understanding of vibrations and the conductivity of bone from 16th Century anatomists Vesalius, Fallopius, and Eustachius.

It was fairly simple to use the Dentaphone, one simply opened the fan, hooked the rubber cord to the back of the handle, holding the fan open, and rested the upper edge of the center panel against the upper teeth. A slight downward pressure on the handle caused the fan to bow; the pressure carried the vibrations upward through the teeth to the upper jaw and to the ear.

The fan-shaped aid was said to be more effective than the more common ear-trumpet because it bypassed the ear canal and the possible damage there, carrying the vibration straight to the ear drum. However, the Dentaphone never attained the popularity of the ear trumpet, probably because of the unusual shape and attention drawing method of use.

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