Hugh Hetherington Hearing Aid Museum
Hugh Hetherington Hearing Aid Museum

The Hearing Aid Museum

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Click on the "General Information" button (top button above) for an overview and general information on this category of hearing aid.

 

Conversation Tubes

Double Bell Hard Rubber Conversation Tubes

These conversation tubes have no maker's markings or date information on them.

However these conversation tubes likely date from somewhere around 1880 to 1900 or so.

Interestingly enough, double-bell conversation tubes were not designed primarily for hard-of-hearing people. See their real uses at the bottom of this page.

A view of the coiled black double bell conversation tube. The overall length of this conversation tube including both bells is 42". This conversation tube weighs 11 oz.

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A view of the coiled brown double bell conversation tube. The overall length of this conversation tube including both bells is 41". This conversation tube weighs 8.8 oz.


 

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Close-up of the mouths of the brown double bell conversation tube. Each of the bells are 2 7/16" in diameter.

 

 

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Close-up of a bell of the black conversation tube. The bell is 3¾" long and is made of hard rubber.


 

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Top view of the brown double-bell conversation tube. The black and brown conversation tubes are identical except that the brow tube is 1" longer.

The outside diameter of both of these conversation tubes are ¾" which was the typical maximum size of conversation tubes. The diameter is constant throughout, whereas regular conversation tubes often had a tapered tube.
 

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Close-up showing the weave of the fabric of the black double-bell conversation tube. The fabric covers the flexible metal sound tube.
 

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The double-bell conversation tube had some interesting uses. It could be used by a hard-of-hearing couple. The husband held one bell up to his ear while his wife talked into the other bell. Then they switched—the husband moved the bell to his mouth and his wife held the bell to her ear. That way they could hear each other without shouting.

A second use was for when a young couple was courting. Since they were chaperoned, they'd get no privacy, and since touching was forbidden, the beau couldn't whisper "sweet nothings" into his girl's ear. The way around it was a "courting tube". The double bell conversation tube fit the bill admirably. They could whisper to each other without touching and without being overheard as this picture from the Hearing Health and Technology Matters website shows.

A third use for the double-bell conversation tube was for use in noisy railroad carriages where two businessmen want to carry on a private conversation without shouting to be heard over the background noise. In fact, they even had special double-bell conversation tubes that wrapped up and hid inside the men's top hats when not in use!

"In the year 1845, the Gutta-Percha Company was formed to produce 'speaking tubes'. These 'small and cheap Railway Conversation Tubes', according to company publicity, enabled parties 'to converse with ease and pleasure, whilst travelling, not
withstanding the noise of the train. This can be done in so soft a whisper as not to be overheard even by a fellow traveler. They are portable, and will coil up so as to be placed inside a hat'." (from "Of Trumpets and Tubes").
 

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