Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
CAP understands that any assessment of a person's hearing or prescription of a hearing aid must be done by a hearing aid dispenser registered with the Health Professions Council (HPC). Whilst it is possible to sell hearing aids via mail order, the assessing, testing and prescribing of a device must be carried out by an HPC registered hearing aid dispenser. For more information, see www.hpc-uk.org. By contrast, a listening aid or a hearing amplifier does not require testing or assessment and works by amplifying surrounding sound; its effects are generally untested though the principle of amplification is established.
Claims for both types of device should be accurate, supported by evidence (Rules 3.7 and 12.1) and should not exaggerate the product’s usefulness. Marketers advertising hearing amplifiers must not imply that they are as powerful or effective as genuine hearing aids or that they can alleviate hearing loss. They should not make specific claims of efficacy (for example, “hear a penny dropped from 45 feet away!”) or refer to “razor sharp clarity” without sound clinical evidence based on tests in the ear (Merit Ltd, 7 January 2009; IntraMed Ltd, 10 December 2008; Emery Ltd, 16 January 2008, and Trent International Management Services Ltd, 7 January 2004). Evidence-based statements about amplification of sound might be acceptable, provided the ad carries no implication that the device is equivalent to or can replace a hearing aid.
Ads for a listening aid or a hearing amplifier should not misleadingly claim that the device is “invisible” or “virtually undetectable” if the product is visible outside the ear (Merit Ltd, 20 September 2006). Marketers are reminded that, without independent evidence, such claims are unacceptable in testimonials from users.
Claims for genuine hearing aids should be accurate and supported by evidence. One advertiser was unable to prove that its devices were suitable for all types of hearing loss, or that users would experience “No Echo, No Feedback, No Whistling, No Wind Noise” (Digital Hearing Aid Information Service Ltd,7 December 2011).
Hearing aid retailers making price comparisons should ensure that, unless they specify clearly otherwise, they compare similar products with equivalent specifications and features (Specsavers Hearcare Ltd, 27 July 2011). They should not imply that the products they sell are offered at reduced prices (for example, by stating “all offers are half the price of other company catalogue prices or at least significantly reduced”) if their products are exclusive to them (Ultravox Holdings, 6 November 2006).
Marketing communications encouraging consumers to arrange appointments for hearing tests should not claim that an appointment has already been arranged if the appointment is provisional and should make clear that recipients do not have to respond; they should not claim that consumers have already made a request for a test if they have not (Hidden Hearing Ltd, 24 August 2005). Marketers are reminded of the need to make clear if correspondence is marketing material. Marketers should make clear if a free offer is conditional on taking an obligatory hearing test (Sietech Hearing Ltd, 21 July 2004).
Marketers of hearing aids should not claim to offer independent advice on the best hearing aid products and prices unless they can show they have no links to hearing aid manufacturers and retailers (Digital Hearing Aid Information Service Ltd, 4 November 2009). Similarly, marketers should not mislead about whether they are a commercial company. The ASA upheld a complaint about a circular, headed “Join the hearing aid debate... NHS or Private? We’ll help you decide...”, which offered a free guide entitled “The Consumer Guide NHS or Private Digital Hearing Aids”. The complainant believed, and the ASA agreed, that the advertiser had misled about its intention to generate leads for its parent company (Hearing Information Services Ltd, 1 December 2010).
Marketers offering free trials of demonstration hearing aids or boosters should not misleadingly imply that the devices on trial work if they do not and should make clear that the demonstration models are not functioning if they are not (Ultravox Holdings Ltd 6 April 2005).