Staff Standpoint | September 2016 Hearing Review

Karl StromAccording to statistics generated by the Hearing Industries Association (HIA), Washington, DC, hearing aid net unit sales in the second quarter (Q2) of 2016 grew by 10.1% compared to the same period last year. Private/commercial-sector hearing aid sales outpaced dispensing activity at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with a 12.8% increase in units sold, while the VA’s units remained basically static (0.4%) compared to Q2 of last year. This follows a very good first quarter for the hearing industry, when sales grew by 9.7% for the total market: 10.8% for the private sector and 5.3% for the VA.

When comparing the first-half (H1) figures of 2016 to 2015, the private sector this year has sold nearly 1.5 million units for an increase of 11.8%, while the VA has dispensed just over 360,000 units or 2.7% more hearing aids (Figure 1). In total, the hearing aid market has grown by 9.9% compared to H1 2015. At the current pace, US hearing aid sales would approach 3.7 million units by year’s end.

[Click on image to enlarge.] Hearing aid net unit sales by quarter, with VA dispensing in red and private/commercial-sector dispensing in blue. Sales in H1 2016 grew by 9.9% for the total market, 11.8% for the private sector, and 2.7% for the VA. Source: HIA.

Figure 1. Hearing aid net unit sales by quarter, with VA dispensing in red and private/commercial-sector dispensing in blue. Sales in H1 2016 grew by 9.9% for the total market: 11.8% for the private sector and 2.7% for the VA. Source: HIA. [Click on image to enlarge.]

It should be noted that unit volume sales of some Big Box retail (eg, Costco) outlets are included in the private sector sales, so the percentage increases reported here are not necessarily reflective of the typical traditional dispensing office. Additionally, there are two new reporting members in HIA, Hansaton and Intricon—both long-time established players in the market that are unlikely to account for a large portion of the growth seen in the first half. However, as with last year’s total unit growth of 7.2%, it is uncertain how much Costco and other mass retailers are contributing to these growth figures.

Comparing  first-half 2016 statistics with those of 2015, the use of behind-the-ear hearing aids (BTE) has increased by 1% overall and 2% in the private sector, spurred on by the popularity of receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) devices. BTEs accounted for 80.8% of all the aids dispensed in the United States in Q2 2016, and constituted 82.0% of all private-market sales. Two-thirds (65.7%) of all private-market units were RIC/RITE-style hearing aids.

The growth of wireless hearing aid features also continues. In the first-half of 2016, about 9 of 10 (87.5%) hearing aids sold contained wireless technology, according to the HIA statistics.