The Story of Joseph Poliakoff and his Hearing Technologies

Joseph Lazarevich Poliakoff was born in Russia in 1873, and witnessed the Communist Revolution from his apartment in 1917. He then was able to gain employment as a district telephone inspector, and played a part in constructing Moscow’s first automatic telephone exchange. He took with him the knowledge he had gained working with telephones when he fled Russia with a diamond in his shoe as Stalin rose to power in 1924. 

Joseph Lazarevich Poliakoff

He moved his family to the UK, where he founded the Multitone Electronic Company in 1931. A great inventor, he patented the paging beeper and the magnetic induction loop  to help hearing impaired people hear better in theatres and auditoriums, among other inventions. His greatest passion was in improving hearing technology for the deaf and hearing impaired.

Two Telex brand hearing aids in brown leather case with warranty paper–Museum of Health Care 018002001
Progressive Treatment Unit–Museum of Health Care 018002001

His friend W. G. Scott-Brown recalls that the first time he met Poliakoff at his factory, there were three or four girls there eating their lunch and smiling as he demonstrated and tested new hearing technologies with them. He was a man who insisted that his work be the best it could be for those who used his devices to hear, and he was fondly remembered for his integrity, enthusiasm, kindness, and friendliness. Poliakoff passed away in 1959 at the age of eighty-six, and his son Alexander continued to run Multitone Electronics, which still exists today as a subsidiary of Champion Technology.

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Shaelyn Ryan<br>(Collections Technician/Assistant 2020-2021)
Shaelyn Ryan
(Collections Technician/Assistant 2020-2021)

Shaelyn Ryan is a recent graduate of Queen’s University, having completed her Bachelor’s degree in History in 2021, and is returning to Queen’s in the fall to pursue a Master’s degree in History. Either as a Summer Student or Work-Study Student through Queen’s University, Shaelyn has helped catalogue and research many of the museum’s collection of artefacts as a Collections Technician (since 2018). 

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