30 Years Ago President Reagan Started Wearing Hearing Aids

On September 7, 1983, the official announcement was made about President Ronald Reagan wearing hearing aids. The September issue of the Hearing Review includes Dr. Thomas Powers’ story of fitting the President with hearing aids in the Oval Office.

Photo Credit: Hearing Review Sept 2013
Photo Credit: Hearing Review Sept 2013

Powers says,”The President wanted a set of small custom instruments, so we built him a pair of half shells, similar to how they’re built today. The instruments themselves were a very special order combining two circuits—both of which were on the market. The challenge was that we had just never combined the two together in one instrument. The first was a traditional AGC-I compression circuit and the other was a circuit we referred to at the time as ASP—automatic signal processing. This circuit was somewhat of a precursor to today’s noise reduction circuits, in that it had the low frequency gain to give him some noise reduction.”

Powers says that Reagan was a very good patient. “Besides making you feel at ease, he was extremely patient. He listened. He asked questions and was really interested in the technology. He had such a presence about him—he was certainly tall, taller than me, but he commanded a presence—you just knew he was the President.”

Later, while Reagan was preparing for a trip to what was then the Soviet Union, Powers received a call from the Secret Service about the hearing aid remote control. Since there was communication between the remote and the President’s hearing aids, there was a concern that someone could potentially tap into that signal and listen in on conversations the President was having. Even though Powers assured them it wasn’t possible, he ended up making an extra set for the Secret Service to test.

Read the Hearing Review’s article: President Reagan’s Hearing Aids: Dr Tom Powers on His Oval Office Fitting

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