Quarterly net unit sales of hearing aids, with the private/commercial market shown in blue, and the VA shown in red. Overall yearly sales percentage gains/losses are displayed at the top of the graph. Source: HIA.
Hearing aid sales in the United States during the first quarter of 2015 increased by 11.32% compared to the same period last year, according to statistics generated by the Hearing Industries Association (HIA), Washington, DC. The increase reflects almost identical gains from both the private/commercial sector and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which saw dispensing activity rise by 11.32% and 11.31% respectively. This comes on the heels of fairly strong 2014 year-end dispensing activity, where the private sector saw sales rise by 6.26% and the VA by 11.21% (for a total of 7.28%) in Q4 2014.
According to HIA historical figures, this year’s first-quarter sales increase is the highest since the first quarter of 2004 (13.6%)—a year in which the overall market increased by 7.5% after a slight decline in sales during 2003. However, the first quarter’s strong sales were aided by a relatively flat basis (ie, a 0.95% sales increase in the first quarter of 2014). Additionally, how much of the 11.32% increase is due to burgeoning sales at Costco, which is estimated to be growing by 20% per year, and other non-traditional distribution outlets is unknown.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids in the first quarter constituted 79.5% of total US sales in Q1 (80.6% in the private sector and 75.0% in the VA), up from 77.1% in the same period last year. As a subset of BTEs, sales of RICs and RITEs made up 63.5% of the market compared to 56.7% of the market in Q1 2014. About 7 in 8 (86.7%) hearing aids sold in the first quarter contained wireless technology, compared to 82.0% in full-year 2014.
The return-for-credit (RFC) rate in Q1 2015 was 19.7%, about the same as the Q1 2014 RFC rate (19.1%).
For a review and analysis of 2014 hearing aid sales, see “Hearing Aid Sales Rise by 4.8% in 2014; RICs Dominate Market” in the March 2015 Hearing Review.