The YouTube video Clarke posted last week, featuring a few minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from the Chaplin film “The Circus,” has since become has become the latest viral sensation to sweep the Web, with more than 1.4 million views.
Apparently the device which looks like a cell phone is (could be) actually the “Western Electric Model 34A “Audiphone” Carbon Hearing Aid.”
It was one of the few 1-piece carbon hearing aids of the time. The unit measured 7¾” by 4″ by 1½” and weighed just under 2 lbs. when fitted with batteries.
The Audiphone consists of a carbon microphone (top left) inside a metal case also holding three “D” size 1½ volt batteries (bottom half of case).
The Audiphone used a Western Electric 390-A carbon microphone. This microphone was different from other hearing aid microphones of the day in that carbon granules were used rather than the carbon block and carbon balls.