French Vibrophone Hearing Device

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A rare hearing device from France in its original box with instructions.

Invented in 1885 this instrument was produced into the early 20th century. A translated advert from the French publication “Illustrations” in 1913 describes it as a new discovery, proclaiming “THE DEAF HEAR WITH LE VIBROPHONE INVISIBLE. Thanks to its extreme power and precision, the VIBROPHONE  makes it possible to hear conversation, make ear noise disappear and regenerate the hearing. – Price: 28f.” A significant sum at that time.

The tiny ear tube was inserted and left in the ear, although “one should not sleep with the device”. As an adjunct to its use as a hearing aid, a vibratory massage could be obtained by striking the small metal dumbbell against the rim of the ear tube. This action produces a bizarre twanging sound, like something out of the ‘Magic Roundabout’. However any implied suggestion that this was a therapeutic intervention rather stretch the imagination.  As with other ear tubes of the time any benefit to hearing seems equally unlikely, unless used specifically to dilate a narrow external auditory meatus.

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