Deaf Victoria implores Victorian Hearing to remove their advertising campaign

25 May 2015

Victorian Hearing's Advertising Campaign was insulting and offensive.
Victorian Hearing’s Advertising Campaign was insulting and offensive.

Victorian Hearing
Attention: CEO
Level 7/267 Collins St
Melbourne 3000
info@victorianhearing.com.au

25 May 2015

To CEO of Victorian Hearing

Re: Advertising Campaign for Victorian Hearing: “Hearing Aids can be Ugly”

My name is Melissa Lowrie and I am the Manager of Deaf Victoria. Deaf Victoria is an information and advocacy agency, funded by the Victorian Government to advocate for and represent Deaf and hard of hearing people in Victoria.

We were dismayed by your recent advertising campaign that “Hearing Aids can be Ugly” and we acknowledge your attempt to apologise to the community after the uproar that followed.

You stated:

“Victorian Hearing sincerely apologizes if our current invisible hearing solution ad was hurtful, it was certainly not our intention. However, we are fighting a war with a large population of Australians (1 in 5) who refuse to seek hearing amplification because they are embarrassed.”

Access Economics “Listen Hear!” 2007 report states that 1 in 6 people in Australia have a hearing loss. There is nothing in that report stating that 1 in 5 are embarrassed to wear hearing aids. We would like to see what research you have to back this up.

You also stated:

“As well as poor communication and stress on relationships, hearing loss is also related to general health issues such as fatigue, risk of falls, depression, etc… So the more hearing impaired people that wear hearing aids regularly, the better.”

We agree. However an advertising campaign that states hearing aids can be ugly is not the answer. As you will be acutely aware, the inner ear hearing aids are only suitable for a proportion of people with a very mild hearing loss. They are not suitable for people who have moderate/severe/profound hearing losses. The only amplification available for this group of people is behind the ear hearing aids.

I would like you to put yourself in the shoes of a 15 year old child with a profound hearing loss who uses behind the ear hearing aids or a cochlear implant (as many do). They regularly travel on trams to school, they regularly are driven past the billboard advertisements, they watch television, read newspapers and magazines and also surf the net. they are also incredibly vulnerable to marketing tactics.

Imagine how the 15 year old child will feel reading that his/her hearing aids are ugly. Do you think that child will feel better reading your advertisement? Or feel encouraged to continue wearing their hearing aids? I am speaking from a lived experience, and know that this will impact greatly on that child’s wellbeing and identity.

You stated:

“Victorian Hearing has, for many years, advertised BTE and traditional hearing aids without any success in helping this large group of people, so we tried something out of the box. Our goal and intention is to help those with hearing loss who are not seeking help due to the stigma.”

I beg to differ. With advertisements like you, you are creating the very stigma that you are hoping to avoid.

“Since we released this ad (which finished this weekend), we have been able to help many who would have never stepped foot inside an audiology clinic as they were not aware of all options available.”

We find this very difficult to believe, however kudos to you for increasing your numbers somewhat. At the same time as recording that small gain, you have not only lost thousands of potential customers, but angered a whole community.

“With this being said, we will be mindful of imagery and messages sent in future campaigns.”

We would like to request that this advertising campaign is removed immediately, and that an official and public apology is issued. We will also be lodging a complaint on behalf of Deaf and hard of hearing people in Victoria to the Ad Standards Bureau.

If you have any comments or questions, please email me on melissa.lowrie@deafvictoria.org.au

Melissa Lowrie
Manager
Deaf Victoria

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