Picture of a section of the Bernafon corporate history timeline (1946 to 1992) exhibited at headquarters

Bernafon history

The Bernafon story begins in 1946, when our founders made it their mission to empower people to hear and communicate better. Today, we are continuing that tradition with passion, technological competence, and commitment to partnerships.

Key milestones

Old black and white photo of Bernafon's first factory in Flamatt, near Bern, Switzerland, 1925

1946 - 1974

A Swiss lead into hearing care

It all started in Switzerland when young Hans Gfeller Jr., a student in engineering, got a hold of his father’s new hearing aid and built his own.


The starting point

With two factories in the Bern area, Gfeller AG was a telecommunication company best known for their telephones. Although successful, management always kept on the look out for opportunities for expansion. A big break came when the company’s owner, Hans Gfeller Sr., got back home from a trip to the US with a brand new hearing instrument. His son, Hans Gfeller Jr., took a particularly keen interest in it. But instead of admiring what was then the best in audiology technology, he grabbed a screwdriver and proceeded to take it apart, piece by piece. Shortly after, he started developing and selling his own sound amplification devices through the family business.

  • Group image, around 1946

    A visit from Switzerland’s postal, telephone and telegraph service (PTT), a corporate client. Hans Gfeller Sr. is fifth from the right.

  • Old black and white portraits of smiling Hans Gfeller Jr. & Hans Gfeller Sr., with hearing instrument, 1946

    Hans Gfeller Jr. & Hans Gfeller Sr., with hearing instrument


“A contract has been completed with A. Kunz & Co, Zurich, and E. Singer, Bern, for the provision of 250 hard of hearing 3 lamp amplification devices, at a sales price of 128 Swiss Francs, production cost including tests and construction approx. 76 Francs . A first sample is being completed and will be ready in the next few days.”

Company board minutes, December 20, 1946


An instant global success

Interest in the Gfeller hearing aids picked up quickly also outside Switzerland. By 1949, sales contracts had been concluded as far away as North Africa and the Middle East. A few years later, a first sales branch was opened in Stuttgart, Germany.

  • Old black and white photo of man sitting by desk testing Bernafon hearing aids, around 1950

    Hearing aid testing, circa 1950

  • Old black and white photo of three workers sitting around a table putting together Bernafon hearing aids, around 1950

    Hearing aid production, circa 1950


From portable to behind the ear

Bernafon’s first portable hearing instrument was a two part device with valve amplifiers and a filament battery that users had to carry around in a separate box. With transistors continuing to shrink in size, Gfeller AG introduced its first behind the ear instruments.


Development from mini vacuum valves to the transistor (scale: 1:2)

Old photo of a room full of dedicated workers in labcoats working on Bernafon hearing aid production, 1989

1975 - 1994

Expansion and consolidation

The economic crisis of 1973 combined with rapid technological changes shaped the company’s strategy for the years that followed. To make its place in an increasingly competitive market, Gfeller AG – still mostly a telecommunications company – needed to shift all its focus on hearing aids.


Launch of T-Series

The first to be equipped with integrated circuits and two small chips inside, the T-Series proved a definite success. With further refinement over subsequent years, the product was so popular that it remained in production until 2002.


Ascom merger

The Gfeller company merged with Autophon, Hasler and Zellweger and forms Ascom. The new group employed 14,000 workers and accounted for CHF 2.2 billion annual turnover.

First digital hearing aid

After four years in development, PHOX, the world’s first digitally programmable hearing system was ready.


“Previous devices had to be adjusted manually by an acoustician using a screwdriver. With PHOX, fittings could be carried out using a programming unit incorporating an Intel processor. Adjustments could be made for up to ten different parameters.”


“Previous devices had to be adjusted manually by an acoustician using a screwdriver. With PHOX, fittings could be carried out using a programming unit incorporating an Intel processor. Adjustments could be made for up to ten different parameters.”


A key player in the industry

“With great pride, the company’s management was able to tell employees and shareholders that the new group was ranked eleventh among the world’s largest telecommunications firms.”


Take-over of Bosch hearing activities

The company continued to grow with the acquisition of the hearing instrument activities of German firm Robert Bosch GmbH. The same year, the company opened its own sales wing in Berlin.


Sale of Ascom Audiosys to William Demant Holding

“As part of a new strategy determined by the Ascom group, it was decided that various activities should be offloaded. The production of hearing instruments is subsequently acquired by Denmark’s William Demant.”

Picture of Bernafon global headquarters building in Bern, Switzerland, on a sunny day

1995 - 2021

On the road of innovation

Following the take-over by William Demant Holding – with a core business strongly rooted in hearing care – alignment and cooperation started in production and logistics. Product development, marketing and sales remained separate and carried out independently.


Bernafon name and new headquarters in Bern-Bümpliz

The various divisions are renamed ‘Bernafon’. For the first time, Bernafon connected and referred to the product, the firm behind it, and the brand new headquarters in Bern-Bümpliz.

Bernafon on an innovation streak



First fully digital hearing aid



World’s first ChannelFree™ hearing aid



Award-winning design with external speaker



Nano receiver-in-the-ear instrument with feedback canceller



First hearing aid compatabile with smartphones



First lithium-ion rechargeable hearing aid



A True Environment Processing™ hearing aid for people with profound hearing loss



The industry’s first hearing aid with Hybrid Technology™


New opportunities ahead

Thanks to a clear direction and focus on high-performance products, leading technology, and outstanding support, Bernafon continues to evolve and increase market share. Customer and user needs and expectations in a changing industry makes for interesting years to come.