This beautifully engraved silver ear trumpet is an early type of hearing aid. It was the work of F.C. Rein & Son, aurists and acoustic instrument makers of 108 Strand, London, and made between 1860 and 1864.
By cupping a hand around the ear improved hearing by five percent. So in the 19th century a whole series of trumpets, horns, under-beard listeners and top hats with discreet ear pieces were devised for the hearing impaired. It was not until 1901 that the first electronic hearing aid was patented in the USA but this was heavy and unwieldy.
This type of ear trumpet is known as a bell resonator style, London Dome or Grand Opera Dome type because of its similarity in shape to the dome of St Paul's Cathedral in London. The ivory ear tip sat inside the ear canal. The ear trumpet acted to amplify sounds down the tube.
This ear trumpet was reputedly used by Mary Lord, widow of the famous Sydney businessmen and ex-convict Simeon Lord. It is a part of the 'Simeon Lord- Mary Hyde' collection of early colonial artefacts.
Geoff Barker, Curatorial, October 2009
Bennion, Elisabeth, Medical Instruments, Sotheby Parke Bernet, University of California Press, California, 1979
Mary Hyde, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Hyde
Hainsworth, D. R., 'Lord, Simeon (1771 - 1840)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, Melbourne University Press, 1967, pp 128-31, http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A020114b.htm