On Wednesday, the Hearing Industries Association (HIA) released its year-end hearing aid sales statistics for 2009, showing that hearing aid net unit volume increased by 16.6% in the fourth quarter (compared to Q4 2008) and the industry finished 8.54% higher in unit volume compared to 2008. At the beginning of the decade, in 2000, hearing aid sales volume was about two-thirds (65%) of what it is today: 1,930,005 units compared to the 2,613,081 units sold in 2009.

As with the last several years, dispensing activity at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) played a significant role in hearing industry sales, posting a 28.28% increase in volume during the fourth quarter. On the year, the VA dispensed 484,384 hearing aids for a 28.01% annual increase. On the decade, the VA has grown its dispensing activity by 140% (from 201,482 units in 2000), and now accounts for 18.54% of all the hearing aids sold in the United States compared to only 10.4% in 2000. For more information on the VA’s recent surge in dispensing activity, see the August 2009 HR Staff Standpoint.

Private sector (non-VA) net unit volume sales grew by an encouraging 14.09% in the fourth quarter, compared to a -6.56% decrease during the same period in 2008. On the year, sales increased by 4.91% for private-practice dispensing professionals and other non-VA sources. On the decade, private sector dispensing has grown from 1,728,523 units in 2000 to 2,128,697 units in 2009, or 23.15%.

It was widely anticipated that fourth quarter gains would approach or exceed double digits. In 2008, fourth quarter sales fell by a total of -3.64% (-6.56% in the private sector and an increase of 13.32% in the VA). However, it’s fair to say that the 16.6% overall gain and 14.09% private sector gain is larger than most predicted and represents good news for dispensing professionals and industry.

The dispensing of BTEs continues to grow, and the style has been the most popular on the market since 2007. BTE instruments now make up 64.12% of the total market (65.70% for the private sector, 57.14% for the VA), compared to 57.32% in 2008 (58.76% for the private sector, 46.89% for the VA).