Figure 1. US hearing aid sales increased by 4.75% in the second quarter of 2014, following a relatively flat (0.95%) sales in the first quarter, perhaps due to record harsh weather. At mid-year, the hearing instrument market is up 2.9% compared to the same period last year.

Staff Standpoint | August 2014 Hearing Review

By Karl Strom, Editor-in-Chief

According to statistics compiled by the Hearing Industries Assn (HIA), Washington, DC, second-quarter US net hearing aid unit sales increased by 3.3% for the commercial market and 10.2% for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) compared to the same period last year, for a total quarterly increase of 4.75% over Q2 2013. This compares favorably to flat (0.95%) first-quarter sales (0.1% increase for commercial sector; 4.3% for VA).

When comparing mid-year 2013-2014 statistics, hearing aid net unit sales have increased by 2.9% in H1 2014. The VA, which now accounts for over one-fifth (21.3%) of all hearing aids dispensed in the United States, experienced unit increases of 7.3%, while hearing aid sales in the commercial (non-VA) sector increased by 1.75% compared to H1 2013.

Overall, these statistics suggest “average growth” for an industry with an historical year-on-year sales growth of 2-4%. As noted in the May 2014 Staff Standpoint, a tepid economy along with extremely low temperatures and high heating bills may have dampened unit sales in the first quarter (0.95%). The 2.9% first-half increase puts the industry back on pace to break the 3-million unit mark by year’s end. However, how much of these gains are due to growth in Big Box retail as opposed to private dispensing offices is unknown.

Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) and receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) style hearing aids continued their upward sales trajectory, increasing from 51.8% to 56.6% of the total market from mid-year 2013 to mid-year 2014 (for more details, see “RICs as a Disruptive Technology” in the June 2014 Hearing Review). A total of 58.6% of all units dispensed by the commercial sector were of the RIC/RITE style, with slightly lower percentages dispensed at the VA (49.4%).

Behind-the-ear (BTE) devices now constitute over three-quarters (76.9%) of all the hearing aids dispensed in the United States. Similarly, more than 4 out of every 5 (80.8%) hearing aids sold during the first half of 2014 contained wireless technology (76.1% commercial sector; 97.9% VA), according to the HIA statistics.

Thanks to Drs Beck & Chasin. This month’s Hearing Review contains an excellent editorial package crafted by guest-editors Douglas Beck, AuD, and Marshall Chasin, AuD, both of whom are musician-audiologists who share a passion for helping audiophiles hear better, onstage and off. Getting to work with Drs Beck and Chasin on a special edition might be akin to working with NPR’s “The Tappet Brothers” from Car Talk (Tom and Ray Magliozzi); there have been plenty of good-natured jabs and jokes mixed in with a lot of wonderfully interesting and insightful information.

The result of their efforts is plain to see. Dr Beck provides a perspective about why, in view of what we know about music and the brain, we need to look more closely at our hearing measurements and procedures. Nina Kraus and Samira Anderson’s summary of research done at Northwestern University and by colleagues around the world relative to music and the brain is one of the most thought-provoking articles we’ve published in recent years. Patty Johnson and Dr Chasin provide a comprehensive but succinct summary of hearing conservation and hearing aid fitting strategies for musicians, respectively. And, anchoring the package, composer Richard Einhorn and sound-engineer Larry Revit apply their deep understanding of music to recommend possible systems for both practicing and onstage musicians who have hearing loss. Taken all together, this is a terrific compilation and distillation about music, the brain, and performing that should benefit dispensing professionals, musicians, and audiophiles for many years to come. The staff of The Hearing Review thanks Drs Beck & Chasin, and all of this month’s contributors, for their great work.

Original citation for this article: Strom KE. Hearing aid sales and music. Hearing Review. 2014;21(8):6.