The BHI has available forms that dispensing professionals can use to enlist the help of celebrities on behalf of BHI.

Know anyone who might have some name recognition? If the answer is “yes,” the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) wants to talk with you. One recent initiative led by BHI Executive Director Sergei Kochkin, PhD, is to get famous people to lend a hand in the fight for better hearing. The BHI has created an easy-to-use set of forms designed for dispensing professionals who have prominent people as their patients, and Kochkin is actively seeking the help of the professional community in gaining access to these people.

Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and much of the 1990s, BHI enlisted more than 60 celebrities—people like Bob Hope, Arnold Palmer, Leslie Nielsen, Richard Thomas, and Al Unser—to address the often-hidden problem of hearing loss. Through thousands of public service message (PSA) television and radio broadcasts and print ads, celebrities provided their personal accounts of hearing loss and told of how they were helped via hearing care professionals and hearing instruments. The people have ranged from Hollywood celebrities like Ed Asner, to political leaders like Ronald Reagan, to sports personalities like the baseball player Curtis Pride, and medical experts like Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.

In general, the BHI’s PSAs answered basic questions about hearing loss, described treatment options, and portrayed the celebrities as role models to help inspire and motivate people to address their hearing loss now rather than later in life. A sampling of these famous personalities can be found on the BHI Web site at

Reviving Celebrity PSAs
Although the PSA program was a success in garnering free air time and print ads, it and several other BHI projects were placed on the “back burner” following key personnel changes within BHI in 1997-1998 due to retirements and budget constraints. Since that time, BHI efforts have concentrated mainly on its successful Physician Referral Program (see February 2002 HR article, “BHI Pursues Physician Referrals with Innovative New Program”).

However, Kochkin is convinced that reviving the PSA program has the potential for greatly benefiting consumers by bringing positive messages about hearing health care to the public—and changing attitudes about hearing loss and treatment options. “We have found that, when people hear real-life stories of those whom they can relate to who have overcome hearing loss, it goes a long way towards removing the stigma associated with this condition,” says Kochkin. “Indeed, in our experience, the story of a specific individual can be the single most important factor that motivates people with hearing loss to do something about it.”

Know Any Celebrities?
Kochkin is actively seeking people who the public might know and who have sought successful treatment for their hearing problems via hearing aids, cochlear implants, and/or assistive devices. While these people include Hollywood celebrities, pop stars, sports figures, etc, they might also include lesser-known people like corporate executives, mayors, authors, musicians and performers, inventors, comedians, or others who have a high profile and a story that might be interesting to the public regarding their hearing loss.

He is asking that dispensing professionals contact and send the BHI’s “Noteworthy Americans” flyer to these people who are also their clients/patients. Kochkin says the forms can be obtained at press. Specific questions about the program can be addressed to him at [email protected]; phone: (703) 684-3391.