The Music and Speech Building contains a hidden exhibition: the Kenneth Berger Hearing Aid Museum and Archives.
The museum is tucked away in the Speech and Hearing Clinic on the building’s first floor. It boasts a collection of more than 4,000 hearing aids and various audio equipment.
“The museum will take you through the entire evolution of hearing devices,” said John Hawks, associate professor of audiology.
The pieces on display span more than 150 years of invention. The oldest piece in the museum, an ear trumpet, dates back to 1850.
Many companies creatively disguised their hearing aids in jewelry, glasses and undergarments. Hawks said in the past there was a stigma about wearing any devices in one’s ears, whereas now the use of Bluetooth devices and in-ear headphones have eliminated this stigma.
Modern hearing aids, a few of which are on display, are nearly invisible to detect. Today, hearing aids can be implanted into children as young as 14 months old, in most cases eliminating their hearing disabilities, Hawks said.
The museum provides “good sense of progression,” Hawks said. Visitors are able to observe the miniaturization and advancement of hearing aids. He suggested the museum may be appealing to students interested in the advancement of technology, audiology or history.
Speech pathology and audiology students walk by the museum fairly often.
“It is set up really neat because we have to walk through the museum every day and get reminded of the history and technology that is part of our major,” said Rachel Strinka, junior speech pathology and audiology major.
However, many students do not notice the museum.
“I didn’t even know we had a museum,” said Megan Shaw, freshman broadcast journalism major, “I had no clue.”
The museum is open to the public, who can “gain appreciation of how difficult it was to be hearing-impaired in the past,” Hawks said.
Hawks said the museum began by accident. In 1966, Kenneth Berger, a university audiology professor, mentioned his personal desire to begin a hearing aid archive to a magazine reporter. After the statement was published, many people sent donations to the university.
Since 1966, the museum has grown in size and still accepts donations. Besides allowing companies to occasionally borrow items for displays, Hawks said legal officials tend to visit to look at the paper archives for patent rights.
The pieces remain on display throughout the year. The museum is free and open during regular school hours.
Contact features correspondent Margaret Thompson at [email protected]