Deafness in Disguise Washington University School of Medicine Becker Medical Library

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Marketing of Hearing Devices

Bob Hope advertisement for Paravox


The influence of Hollywood was at its apex after World War II with marketing materials emphasizing glamour and style. Celebrities such as Bob Hope and Mary Pickford were used to tout the uses of hearing aids and many models of hearing aids reflected the Hollywood theme such as “Hollywood Veri-Small” and “Starlet.”

Radioear advertisement for the Starlet hearing aid
Sonotone advertisement

Courtesy of Radioear (in business since 1924)

Courtesy of Sonotone

Paravox, Inc. enlisted the help of Hollywood celebrities to promote their hearing aids. A Paravox in-house public relations memo outlines the use of celebrities as a means of reaching out to those who would benefit from a hearing aid:

“. . . it is a step forward in a program to arouse a realization in the hard of hearing people that other people are interested in their problems. If, for example, a hard of hearing person reads that Bob Hope or Mary Pickford have a favorable opinion of hearing aids, isn’t it possible that his or her reluctance to wear an aid may be reduced?”

“It is gratifying to know that with Paravox hearing aids the hard of hearing, everywhere, may now enjoy my radio and moving picture shows.”

— Bob Hope

“I am glad that with Paravox hearing aids more people may now hear dialogue on the screen but more important they may also hear their family and friends.”

— Mary Pickford

Even Eleanor Roosevelt was used to reach out to millions who could benefit as featured in this Beltone Hearing Aid Company pamphlet.

Beltone hearing aid advertisement featuring Eleanor Roosevelt, 1952 “I will acknowledge that for a woman a hearing aid is a little more trouble to carry about than it is for a man  . . . But when the day comes when I can’t hear people around me I certainly will not make my family shout at me. I will wear a hearing aid no matter what inconvenience I may find in carrying the paraphernalia.”

Courtesy Beltone Electronics Corporation

Manufacturers’ claims were limitless. “You look younger-you feel younger . . . helps erase that frown which comes from concentrating . . . permits a relaxed posture – ends that forward thrust of the head, that tendency to sit on the edge of your chair . . . makes school marks better . . . your job safer . . . your sales will go up . . . your domestic life happier . . . you will be happy . . . your children better behaved.”

Paravox advertisement
Paravox flyer featuring fictional user’s testimonials and how Paravox hearing aids expanded their usual “HEARzone.”
Beltone advertisement, 1950

Courtesy Beltone Electronics Corporation

This Beltone pamphlet described how their hearing aids would enable users to “enjoy normal family life again,” “enjoy greater business success,” “enjoy happy social life again,” and “enjoy church, radio, movies, music again.”

Paravox advertisement featuring user testimonial
Consumer advisor Doris Foster claimed “I won at least 2 extra years of hearing happiness” in this flyer for the Paravox Tiny-Myte hearing aid.
Beltone brochure describing the benefits of a Beltone hearing aid Beltone brochure describing the benefits of a Beltone hearing aid

Courtesy of Beltone Electronics Corporation

This 1952 Beltone brochure promised hearing aid users no less than the opportunity to “say good-bye to the handicaps of hearing loss.” According to the advertising copy, the tiny new Beltone Model L could provide “the difference between happiness and loneliness,” “the difference between self-confidence and self-consciousness,” “the difference between peace of mind and worry,” and “the difference between normal recreation and isolation.”
Paravox advertisement for triple-testedVeri-small hearing aid, 1949


Another marketing angle was to stress the durability of a hearing aid. According to this 1949 advertisement, not only could the Paravox Veri-Small model withstand pressure of 2,400 pounds, it could remain intact after being dropped 600 feet from an airplane.




Not all these claims by manufacturers went unnoticed by the Federal Trade Commission. In the early 1930s the FTC was charged with the responsibility for the regulation of advertising and sales practices of hearing aids. For the time period of 1934 to 1976 the FTC issued sixty-six orders against hearing aid manufacturers for false or misleading advertising claims. Nearly forty percent of these orders were issued in the 1950s for phrases such as:

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