Before we had sophisticated audiometers and standardized test batteries, tuning forks were the first tools used to obtain information on an individual’s hearing acuity. In the late 19th century, tuning fork tests were developed based on the auditory phenomenon we are familiar with today. Most notably, the Weber test was developed in 1845 by Ernst Weber and the Rinne test was developed in 1855 by Heinrich Rinne. Additionally, Marie Gelle developed a tuning fork test for stapes fixation in 1881. These early contributions are still widely used today. The Weber and Rinne tests are still widely utilized in audiology and ENT clinics and Marie Gelle’s method was the predecessor for modern-day tympanometry.
What we now classify as pure tone audiometry for finding hearing thresholds was first described by Gustav Theodor Fechner in the 19th century, who described the method of limits, the method of constant stimuli, and the method of adjustment. The method of limits and the method of adjustment were heavily utilized in the development of the modern-day threshold search for pure tone audiometry.
The first audiogram was developed in 1885 by Arthur Hartmann, who plotted left and right tuning fork responses and percentage of hearing on what he called an “Auditory Chart.” The first-time hearing thresholds were described in terms of frequency was in 1903 on Max Wein’s "Sensitivity Curve".