Kent State museum boasts world’s largest hearing aid collection

Julia Sprowls

Kent State’s Center for the Performing Arts is home to the world’s largest collection of hearing aids: the Kenneth Berger Hearing Aid Museum and Archives. The collection of vacuum tube hearing aids, ear trumpets, audiometers, transistor eyeglass, jewelry aids and many other hearing artifacts was started in 1966.  Today, there are more than 3,000 different hearing aid models on display.

All items in the museum have come by donation. The center receives these archives all year long, unsolicited. The museum’s most recent donation came from a hearing, nose and throat doctor in Akron this summer, said John Hawks, a speech pathology and audiology professor. The largest donor was A.J. Schneider who was in the hearing aid business for over 70 years. Schneider donated over 500 different models of hearing aids to Kent’s museum. 

The Hearing Aid Museum offers guided tours by appointment. Hawks is in charge of the guided tours and said he sees at most a dozen tours a year, although not all tours have to be scheduled or guided. 

Over the years, hearing aid companies have drastically changed the styles and structures of the devices. Megan Malone, a speech pathology and audiology clinical instructor, said how interesting it is to see the huge devices used over a hundred years ago sitting next to the small, new technology that is used now.

“Some were stuck onto glasses and hats because people would try to hide their hearing issue,” Malone said. 

The museum has modes of hearing that tried to incorporate fashion, such as hearing aid jewelry, glasses, hats and discreet models that go under clothing.

Some of the oldest pieces in the museum date back to 1836, but Hawks said some of the newer pieces might still function electronically for research purposes.

“It’s cool for people to see how it has evolved,” Malone said. 

Visitors can see hearing aid models ranging from an 1850s ear trumpet to modern-day, in-ear discreet aids. 

The Kenneth Berger Hearing Aid Museum is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is free. For more information and to schedule a guided tour, visit their homepage:

Julia Sprowls is the education, health and human services reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].