For the past 12 months, the Swiss Association of Hearing Aid Acoustics has been celebrating its 70th anniversary and looking back at its milestones. Founded in 1953, Akustika was set up to promote the emerging profession in Switzerland, both professionally and ethically. It is work that continues to this day.
The organisation’s roots lie in the second world war when the Americans developed very small electron tubes for use in radio-controlled projectiles. After the war, these became the basis of modern hearing aids. In Switzerland, the big breakthrough came when Hans Gfeller Sr came home from a trip to the USA with a new hearing aid. His son, Hans Gfeller Jr, took a screwdriver and dismantled the instrument. Shortly after, he began selling his own sound amplifiers through the family business, Gfeller AG.
The company, now known as Bernaphone, which previously specialised in telephone technology, set up Switzerland's first factory for hearing aids. The aim was to bring an affordable hearing aid to the market at a time when such a thing was a luxury import.
In Basel, audiometry pioneer Professor Dr Erhard Lüscher and engineer Jozef Zwislocki designed an advanced audiometer that became popular with hearing care professionals. At that time, however, anyone who was involved in fitting hearing aids already had a job, usually in the technical or medical field. There was no profession of hearing aid acoustician.
As demand grew, a distinct industry emerged, prompting a group of 19 Swiss manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers to set up the Akustika Association. It would go on to play a leading role in negotiations with the Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO), particularly in the areas of disability and old age, to maintain professional standards and to support training. It would also be guided by a moral framework, committing members to work to the best of their knowledge and for the benefit of those with disabilities.
Now, as online fittings proliferate, Akustika is more committed than ever to promote the benefits of a tailor-made service. “This is where the industry can demonstrate how a professional adaptation can be made, rather than a quick-fit adjustment,” says Christoph Schönenberger, Akustika’s managing director. “Everyone deserves such an optimised solution and should not have to settle for an unnecessary partial success."
Above right: The founding document of Akustika from 1953