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Bone Conduction Technology Leading to Headphones In the Early 1800s Through the 20th Century

Bone Conduction Technology Leading to Headphones Through the 1800s and the 20th Century

We have written extensively about the History of Bone Conduction Headphone Technology, paying particular attention to certain aspects and how each has shaped and formed the Bone Conduction Headphones we now enjoy. 

This article is about the more recent history in the last 150 years and the progression of the inventors and the design through the 1930s and getting us closer to the Bone Conduction Headphones we wear today. The absolute joy of writing these articles is discovering the research and seeing the ripple effect in the technology and the players.

From Bell Laboratories, Sonotone to Sennheiser, Microsoft, and the U.S. Navy to Zenith Radio, they are all here lurking in the background because they have utilized, cited, or studied these inventions for themselves. For many of us, History is a blast!!

History of Bone Conduction Technology and The Military

Our “History of Bone Conduction Headphone Technology and The Military” article explored how the technology was utilized by the armed forces (and still is). It explored how innovation in a time of crisis is a recurring theme throughout history and how war has often been a factor in drastically improving technological achievement.

Bone Conduction Technology Helping Hearing Problems 

In other blogs “Bone Conduction Headphones Use With Existing Tinnitus And Hearing Loss” and “Bone Conduction Headphones For Those With Hearing Loss,”  we also have covered how Bone Conduction technology is a lifeline to those with hearing problems, allowing those who suffer from middle ear hearing deficiencies to take advantage of Bone Conduction to hear sound in different ways. 

The hearing aid industry has used this for years, but now those with hearing difficulties can use Bone Conduction technology to listen to music and other forms of audio in this way too. 

Bone Conduction Technology Through The 1800s and the 20th Century

Finally, we took a deep dive into the history of Bone Conduction technology in our article “Historic Milestones In Bone Conduction Headphone Technology” and quoting the Army Research Laboratory and went back to 350 BC and when the concept of Bone Conduction was probably first proposed by Aristotle in the form of “air internus.” 

Continued through the 1800s to discover how Ludwig van Beethoven created one of the first Bone Conduction apparatuses to allow him to continue composing his symphonies in the face of increasing deafness. Finally ended in the 20th Century with inventor H. Werner Bottesh.

Our previous blog also discussed various patents that have been filed over the years by different inventors and visionaries, each one contributing to the concept of Bone Conduction Headphones and pushing the Bone Conduction envelope further. 

We briefly listed some of who they were and what they did, but we believe the various industries that adopted Bone Conduction technology owe them a great debt of gratitude. Each of these men deserves more than what our previous articles gave them.

So today, we would like to acknowledge each of these inventors with their areas because if it weren’t for each of the men below, we wouldn’t have the wonderful technology we do today. Their descriptions in their patents of their inventions say it all.

Headphone and Earphone Technologies Relationship to the Invention of the Telephone

Headphone and earphone technology was very much connected to the invention of the telegraph and the telephone and was an offshoot of that technology looking for ways to help the telephone and the radio operators utilize telephone hearing devices to facilitate their job as well as the consumer telephone.

The telephone was one of the precursors to Bone-conduction headphones technology because, as with other areas like the phonograph, humans were looking for ways to transmit sound and voice data.  These inventions eventually led to speakers and microphones.

First United States Telephone Patent

Telephone – Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell Telegrahy Patent #174,465 3-7-1876

“Be it known that L Alexander Graham Bell, of Boston, Massachusetts, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Electric Telephony.”

“The method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically, as herein described, by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or another sound, substantially as set forth.”

“A similar sound to that uttered into A (Microphone equivalent) is then heard to proceed from L (Speaker equivalent)”

Alexander Graham Bell’s U.S. patent 174,465; “Improvement in Telegraphy” in 1876 was granted, for an electromagnetic telegraph/telephone using oscillating current and voltage or as we like to call it electricity. It is a device for transmitting sounds telegraphically.

There where many people simultaneously working on the telegraph and the telephone with different technologies being tried and experimented. There are many names such as Manzetti, Bourseul, Reis, Meucci, and Gray and list too long to attribute to this article specific to Bone Conduction Headphones, but we are using him for this article. 

Alexander Graham Bell was able to patent his device, and it allowed the start of the commercialization of these products in the United States.

Telephone Microphone and Speaker – Thomas A. Edison

Thomas A. Edison, Menlo Park New Jersey, Assignor To The Western Union Telegraph Company, Of New York, N. Y.

Thomas A. Edison Speaking Telegraph Patent #474,230_5-8-1892

“This present invention I designate as a telespecan or speaking telegraph because it is adapted to transmit spoken words regardless of the musical key.”

Thomas Edison, in his patent, is showing one of the first microphones and speakers widely used in the first telephones. These types of devices would be refined and miniaturized and later used in the Wireless Bluetooth Headphones with Microphones that we use with our Smartphones.

“The box A is the one into which the words are uttered, and the box B or resonator is the responding part to which the attendant listens.”

Set of In-Ear Headphones – Ernest Jules Pierre Mercadier

Ernest Jules Pierre Mercadier-Bi-Telephone Patent 6-16-1891

The first patent for a set of in-ear headphones with the intention of using electrical current is called a Bi-Telephone and was in 1891 by French engineer Ernest Jules Pierre Mercadier.

These were actually the first Earbuds as he describes in his patent:

“The nipple ends of each are directed inward to enter the ears of the user. Normally the apparatus is so arranged that the spring of the yoke holds the branches nearer together than the diameter of the head of an ordinary person. 

It will be readily seen that when the branches are pulled apart and the nipples inserted into the ears in the position adapted for use, the strain on the yoke will operate to hold the parts in operative position without making it necessary to use the hand to support it, and at the same time allowing the hands to be free to perform other functions.“

By making the parts small and of light material, as described, the apparatus may be worn without inconvenience, it being well known that the proportioning of the various Co-operating parts of a telephone apparatus, and not the size of the apparatus, is the essential thing. My minute apparatus, if it be well proportioned, will be as effective in its operation as a similar apparatus many times its size.”

Hearing Aids – Miller Reese Hutchison

Miller Reese Hutchison-Telephonic Apparatus Patent #737,242 August. 25, 1903

Miller Reese Hutchison assembled the first electrical hearing aid called the “akouphone” when it was first developed around 1895. By 1902, he had created a portable hearing aid powered by batteries, which he then called the Acousticon.

“This invention is a portable telephonic-apparatus intended to be used by persons with impaired hearing, and it consists of a box or casing containing a telephone transmitter and receiver, a battery, and suitable switching devices.”

Acousticon Model “A” Carbon Hearing Aid

This early model Acousticon carbon aid was manufactured between 1905 and 1910 by the Hutchison Acoustic Company (1904), which later became the General Acoustic Company (1906).

Headphones – Nathaniel Baldwin 

Nathaniel Baldwin-Head-Band for Telephone-Receivers-Patent 2-2-1915

Nathaniel Baldwin was the inventor of an improved Headphone, amongst many other inventions.

His first headphone sets were made by hand in his kitchen and, and he never patented the headset. The earpieces were themselves patented, first in 1910, and the improved versions in 1915.

Bone Conduction Technology in The 1930s 

The 1930s were the “Golden Age” of Bone Conduction technology development primarily for the Bone Conduction Hearing Aid industry. These were the precursors to today’s Bone Conduction Hearing Aids and Bone Conduction Headphones.

Much of the research and development concepts came out of this era and created the full concept. Physics Professor Frederick Bedell, Hugo Lieber and Sonotone, Samuel F. Lybarger and E. A. Myers and Sons, Bell Telephone Laboratories, and Dictograph Products Company, Inc. were all very involved at this time looking for ways to use bone conduction technology.

Many of these people listed were pioneers in helping the hearing impaired to hear. There were much infighting and lawsuits about who did what which we will somewhat discuss below and is interesting today. We don’t imagine all of these people liked each other very much but as with all inventions and business, it is always a race to be first with your patent.

Professor of Physics and Inventor Frederick Bedell

Frederick Bedell-Apparatus for Bone Audition Patent # 1986955A_1-8-1935

In 1931 Frederick Bedell filed for the Patent for an “Apparatus for Bone Audition,” a Bone Conduction device, and reminds us very much of Beethoven’s design for the deaf with his rod from his teeth against his piano. 

  • This device uses a microphone that is used as the initial receiver or pick-up for the sound waves, and the apparatus may be attached to a telephone, phonograph pick-up, or radio to transfer the soundwaves electronically.
  • Wires connecting the output of the amplifier (or radio set) to the input of the deaf speaker or concentrator box.
  • The reaction will then send soundwave signals and operates the tongue depressor type of hygienic applicator between the teeth of the listener.
  • The listener can then hear speech or music over the receiver. Although this machine was designed for the head and ears, it also had the ability to be used on different parts of the body for the same result.

From the lawsuits we see, such as Bedell v. Dictograph Products Company, Inc. 1937, Koch v. Greibach 1938, and Dictograph Products Company, Inc., Plaintiff-appellant, v. Sonotone Corporation 1956, they were all involved. 

Frederick Bedell History

Frederick Bedell was Assistant Professor of Physics at Cornell University in 1893, and, in 1904, he was appointed Professor of Applied Electricity. His most important contributions in electrical engineering were his experimental investigations and theoretical studies dealing with alternating currents. 

In 1917, he was an advisor in the establishment at Cornell of one of the United States Army Schools of Military Aeronautics, which led to his work in the investigation of airplane performance and design. 

He also worked on the development of devices to aid the deaf by utilizing Bone Conduction. For twenty-nine years, he served as editor of the Physical Review. After his retirement, he researched at California Institute of Technology. 

Hugo Lieber – Bone Conduction Hearing Aids and Sonotone 

Hugo Lieber Patent #1,940,553 Hearing Aid Device December. 19, 1933.

Hugo Lieber’s Bone Conduction Hearing Aid Device Patent Description

“This invention relates to hearing-aid devices, and it has among its objects the provision of an improved bone-conduction hearing-aid of small size, suitable for inconspicuous wear by hard of hearing persons, and operating with high accuracy and enough power to deliver sufficient faithfully reproduced vibratory energy to the bone structure of the head to induce corresponding loud sound sensations in the auditory nerve centers of the person.”

Hugo Lieber was a german-born chemist and hearing aid pioneer. Lieber arrived in the USA in 1891 and founded a chemical company in New York. In 1901, he established the trade newspaper ‘Light’ for the gaslight industry. He also studied the newly discovered chemical element radium, and in 1909 was a founding member and treasurer of the Radium Institute of America.

In 1922, he began work on hearing aids for the deaf, inventing a bone conduction receiver called the Sonotone. He founded the Sonotone Corporation in 1929, marketing the new hearing device from 1932. 

In 1932, among his many Bone Conduction Patents, he developed the B-533 Body Hearing Aid, a small bone conduction receiver advertised as the “Lieber Oscillator.” This product was one of the first commercially successful Bone Conduction Hearing Aids available.

Hugo Lieber Bone Conduction Hearing Aid Patent Description

Hugo Lieber Bone Conduction Hearing Aid Device Patent #2,077,426 4-20-1937

Hugo Lieber established the Sonotone Company and incorporated it in 1929 as an extension of a corporation to distribute Siemens hearing aids. As with many inventions, he was one of the inventors of the bone conduction receiver in 1932. It enabled the deaf to hear through the bones in their head directly and to the ear’s internal hearing. 

In 1934 it was advertised in the National Geographic as the Leiber Oscillator, and here is attached another advertisement from Life Magazine in November of 1944. An improved bone vibrator was patented by E. H. Greibach and Sonotone became the licensor for this in 1934.  

LIFE-Sonotone Bone Conduction Invention 11-6-1944 2

Samuel F. Lybarger – Bone Conduction Hearing Aids

Samuel F. Lybarger Earphone Patented December 4, 1934, Mount Lebanon, Pa., E. A. Myers a Sons

Samuel F Lybarger-Earphone Patent #1,983,174 12-4-1934

Samuel F. Lybarger Bone Conduction Hearing Patent Description

“With this in mind, it is an object of this invention to provide an improved combination receiver adapted to transmit by bone conduction the frequencies which are most greatly attenuated by lesions in the middle ear, and to transmit by air conduction those frequencies which are not so greatly attenuated in the middle ear, thus providing greater efficiency of transmission.”

Samuel F. Lybarger was granted 22 patents as an inventor or co-inventor, and several people in the Audiology field have said that he is the “Grandfather of Hearing Aids.”

Samuel F. Lybarger started in the hearing industry in 1929 with E.A. Myers and Sons, which eventually became RadioEar which is still in business today. 

Lybarger designed one of the first wearable hearing aids, the model B-6 which used an advanced miniature receiver and an earmold, and batteries for its power source. He continued to design numerous hearing-related devices throughout his career including an early telephone/hearing aid compatible device, master hearing aid, and bone conduction hearing aids.

Sam Lybarger invented the bone conduction transducer is 1948-49, with the first sales in 1950. The model B71 bone vibrator was introduced in 1973 and has remained the accepted standard of the industry. The primary use of the RadioEar B71 bone vibrator is with audiometers in diagnostic testing.

Samuel F. Lybarger Industry Award

“Awarded to an individual who has made important contributions to research, engineering, or other technological achievements within the field of audiology. He or she should have been, or should be, employed by a company or corporation in the hearing/balance health-care field but must have made contributions that extend beyond their service to the company by furthering the field of audiology.”

Bell Telephone Laboratories

Bell Telephone Labs – John R. Erickson – Bone Conduction Acoustic Device Patent #2,000,165 5-5-1935

Bell Telephone Laboratories were working on Bone Conduction Telephone Receivers. As described this patent:

  • “This invention relates to acoustic devices and more particularly to a bone conduction telephone receiver.
  • An object of this invention is to improve the efficiency and operating characteristics of the bone conduction type receiver.
  • One feature of this invention comprises a receiver having a bone actuating member supported by a pair of spaced resilient members.
  • A further feature comprises such a receiver in which the magnet structure is clamped between the resilient members.”

Dictograph Products Company

Dictograph Products Company Inc.-Henry Koch- Bone Audition Apparatus- Patent # 2,148,024_2-21-1939

One interesting point of information is how the Dictograph company ties back to the original inventor of the Hearing Aid Miller Reese Hutchison (above).

The history of the Dictograph Products Company is in 1905 Miller Reese Hutchison, the inventor of the hearing aid turned over the rights for the Acousticon hearing aid to Kelley Monroe Turner. Turner, who owned or had created the General Acoustic Company around that time or possibly as early as 1902.

Kelley Monroe Turner would go on to improve hearing aids by adding such innovations as a volume control. One of Kelley Monroe Turner’s inventions was the Dictograph, an early hands-free inter-office intercom system. With the success of Dictograph as a brand name, General Acoustic Company changed its name to the Dictograph Products Company in 1920. 

In the summer of 1911, a Dictograph was used to provide evidence to convict Ohio state senator Rodney J. Diegle of bribery. In February 1912, it provided evidence that U.S. Senator William Lorimer of Illinois paid $1,500 to a witness for a perjured testimony. In May 1912,  confessions were secured from five Atlantic City, New Jersey council members for bribery.

Corporate Espionage 

In another interesting bit of information about corporate espionage we have the case of Dictograph Products Company, Inc., Plaintiff-appellant, v. Sonotone Corporation, Emil Henry Greibach and S. Michael Pineles, Defendants-appellees, 231 F.2d 867 (2d Cir. 1956) 

We have a quote from the Appeal of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit – 231 F.2d 867 (2d Cir. 1956) stating :

“Nowak swore that he disclosed to (Hugo) Lieber (The owner of Sonotone) and Pineles, Koch’s invention and showed it to Greibach, Koch’s wooden models of it. That was in May 1933, and from June 1933, until December 1934, the Sonotone Company employed Nowak to prepare their advertising. 

While so engaged, he helped to exploit Greibach’s invention, and, though he does not concede that he knew it to have been copied from the models he says he showed to Greibach, that is certainly a not unlikely inference.

It follows that if his deposition is true, a serious doubt arises whether he did not become a party to the scheme and whether the “wrong” that his deposition later gave him an “opportunity to right,” as he put it, was one in which he had participated. At best, therefore, his testimony would be open to serious challenge, and would be far from conclusive.”

Finally, there is the Patent Appeals Case of Koch v. Greibach, which Koch ultimately won.

Koch v. Greibach Patent Appeal No. 3910 May 31, 1938

Appeal from the Board of Appeals of the United States Patent Office, Interference No. 69,131.

“Patent interference proceeding between Henry Koch and Emil Henry Greibach, involving priority of an invention. From a decision of the Board of Appeals affirming a decision of the Examiner of Interferences awarding priority of invention to Emil Henry Greibach, Henry Koch appeals.”

“The decision of the Board of Appeals awarding priority to the appellee is affirmed.”

Edgar H. Hand – Bone Conduction Adjustable Head Band

Edgar H. Hands-Bone Conduction Headband Receiver-Patent 3-30-1937

Edgar Hand who we have mentioned in other articles, is pretty unknown out of all these players and was a small part of the bigger process for Bone Conduction Headphones like many other inventors.

What is interesting in the list below of PatentCitations is you have to look at each invention relating to yours or make sure it is not the same thing and not infringing on that design or using for context for yours.

He set out to help design a better connection for Bone Conduction Hearing Aids to the individual user’s head. He wanted the headband of the receiver to have an adjustable fit based on the shape of each unique user’s head shape.

He wanted his invention to provide headphone support, which was hands-free, simple in construction, economical to manufacture, looks good and was easy to use. Those were pretty good goals for this device and look like the exact adjustable headband used on many headphone telephone and speaker setups still being used in the past or even today.

Quote from Edgar H. Hands Bone Conduction Hand Free Headband Receiver Support Patent

“My invention relates to receiver supports and is particularly adapted for use with hearing-aid with hearing-aid receivers, and receivers which are supported in position on the head of the user so that the hands may be left free for the performance of various tasks.” 

H. HAND Patent #2,075,196


Filed April 12, 1935

Although Headphones had already been patented, Edgar H. Hand’s design shows a way to use an adjustable headphone holder for the Bone Conduction transducer next to your skull and hearing senses like the Headphones we have today.

This transducer is the actual Bone Conduction receiver that vibrates the sound wave through your head and he was one of the inventors to attempt to patent it for a business idea. 

Who’s Who In Patented Headphone Design

It’s certainly showing in this article that all of these inventors had read about or seen Beethoven’s rod or Nathaniel Baldwin Headphones, Frederick Bedells, Hugo Lieber’s or Samuel F, Lybarger’s designs and believed they could do something similar for Bone Conduction Hearing Aids and headphones. We know they were looking!!

If you want to see the who’s who list of headphones and similar devices affected and cited by famous companies look no further than below and see just how even Edgar H. Hands influence’s fingerprints are all over the place, he is one of the not so famous inventors of Bone ConductionTechnology out of the list above.

These designs and inventions will eventually lead to Bone Conduction Headphones as all of this Bone ConductionTechnology is integral to the next steps!!

Patent Citations Credited to Edgar H. Hands Invention

Publication numberPriority datePublication dateAssigneeTitle
US2501107A *1944-05-273/21/1950US Sec WarHeadband
US2652457A *1946-11-139/15/1953Zenith Radio CorpHeadband for hearing aid transducers
US2850584A *1953-11-259/2/1958Alonzo L SmithBone-conduction hearing aid clamps
US3168161A *1965-02-02Littmann
US3864756A *1972-12-182/11/1975US NavyAdjustable earmuffs
EP0269549A2 *1986-11-246/1/1988Telex Communications.Adjustable tension support band for headset
WO2006005501A1 *2004-07-081/19/2006Sennheiser Electronic Gmbh & Co.KgBistable expandable headband
USD750041S1 *2014-07-032/23/2016Gn Netcom A/SHeadphones
US20170071320A1 *2015-09-113/16/2017Microsoft Technology Licensing, LlcAdjustable Bending Force Assembly
USD811362S1 *2015-09-032/27/2018Zound Industries International AbHeadphone headset

List Of Bone Conduction Inventions U.S. Patents 1900 through 1940

Assignees – Inventors – CPCs

Lieber Patents Corp 5.6%


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We are a website that writes helpful articles about the latest technology for emergency preparedness and power grid energy. We try new devices and analyze their quality, durability, effects, for emergency preparedness.

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We are a website that writes helpful articles about the latest technology for emergency preparedness and power grid energy. We try new devices and analyze their quality, durability, effects, for emergency preparedness.

This site is owned and operated by Fremontii, LLC. Fremontii, LLC. is a participant in Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to