Private-sector hearing aid sales increase by 4.2% during first three quarters of 2019According to statistics generated by the Hearing Industries Association (HIA), Washington, DC, overall hearing aid unit sales through the first three quarters of 2019 have increased by 4.9%, with a 4.2% increase in the commercial sector and a 7.9% increase in VA dispensing (Figure 1). Over 1 million net units have been dispensed in every quarter during 2019; the 1-million unit quarterly sales mark was previously reached only one time (in Q2 2018). At the current pace, year-end US hearing aid sales should approach or equal 4.2 million units compared to last year’s 3.97 million units.
Despite the turmoil in Washington and hand-wringing over possible signs of a recession, hearing aid sales were strong during the third quarter. Net unit sales of hearing aids in Q3 2019 increased by 7.25% in the commercial/private sector and a 6.74% increase in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for a total overall increase of 7.15%.
Private sector sales. Commercial hearing aid sales increased to 7.2% in the third quarter, following relatively weaker sales of 1.5% in Q1 and 3.8% in Q2. The 4.2% overall increase in commercial hearing aid units puts 2019 sales roughly on the same pace as the past 2 years (4.0% increase in 2017 and 5.9% in 2018). As noted in our previous analyses, the commercial/private segment include sales from all non-government purchases, including mass merchandisers like Costco, so they are not necessarily reflective of independent practices. Additionally, the sales probably do not reflect the total picture in terms of net revenues, as the impact of third-party payers and possible downward pressure on average selling prices (ASPs) are not reflected in these statistics.
VA dispensing. There has been a notable uptick in VA hearing aid dispensing activity during the past 5 quarters. Unit sales to the VA had been relatively flat from mid-2015 to the middle of last year (averaged 1.6% annual unit increase from 2016 through 2018), but have since seen quarterly increases of 4-6%.
Hearing aid styles. Through the third quarter of 2019, receiver-in-the-canal (RIC or RITE) hearing aids accounted for 77.8% of all hearing aids sold in the United States, compared to 72.5% in 2018. In-the-ear (ITE) style hearing aids constituted 12.4% and traditional behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids made up 9.8% of the US market. More than 9 in 10 (94%) of all hearing aids sold had wireless capabilities, according to HIA.
The HIA statistics also indicate that, so far in 2019, there have been 164,881 hearing aid units (5.3%) dispensed through Medicaid, with over one-quarter (27.6%) dispensed in California.
These statistics are based on confidential reporting from 11 HIA member companies, thought to account for more than 90% of the nation’s hearing aids.