Staff Standpoint | May 2017 Hearing ReviewAccording to statistics generated by the Hearing Industries Association (HIA), Washington, DC, net hearing aid unit sales in the United States increased by 3.4% in the first quarter of 2017—and 3.9% for the private/commercial sector (Figure 1). Although in most years this would be considered healthy or at least “usual” growth, it does represents something of a pause from the torrid pace experienced in the last 2 years—especially 2016, when Q1 sales were up by 9.7% for the total market, and by 10.8% for the private sector. And therein also lies the explanation: the 3.4% sales growth in Q1 is on top of a very strong comparison base from last year. In other words, overall hearing aid unit sales are still fairly strong. Hearing aids dispensed by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) increased by only 1.3% in the first quarter, constituting 19.6% of the entire US market (compared to 5.3% in Q1 2016).
This comes despite all the turmoil, in front of what appears will be a new FDA classification for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids (see article about the April 2017 FTC hearing). This edition of Hearing Review leads off with an abridged version of a study by Larry Humes and colleagues at Indiana University (the comprehensive study appears in the American Journal of Audiology) which has generated a lot of discussion in the field. Although the study’s methodology may not be exactly representative of what most would view as a “typical OTC model” (eg, pre-screened subjects using high-quality hearing aids), it sheds light on many interesting facets of the OTC debate. The one that is generating a lot of controversy is that the Audiology Best-practices (AB) group and the Consumer Decides (CD/OTC) group had no significant differences in terms of speech recognition or subjective benefit. But is this really surprising? After all, dispensing professionals know that audibility matters. And, as the study also abundantly points out, so does the addition of professional care; the AB group which received services associated with audiology best practices were found to have higher satisfaction scores, and 81% of the AB group purchased their hearing aids compared to only 55% of the CD/OTC group (also see p 27 for a discussion of the study relative to teleaudiology by Stender, Groth & Fabry).
With the FDA, FTC, and other stakeholders in the OTC debate moving quickly (see p 8), keep looking to HearingReview.com for more information on these important issues.
Citation for this article: Strom KE. Growing market, despite turmoil. Hearing Review. 2017;24(5):8.