US hearing aid net unit sales in the third quarter increased by a total of 8.7% over the same period last year, according to statistics reported by the Hearing Industries Association, Washington, DC. Dispensing activity was strong for both the private/commercial sector (8.0% increase) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (11.2% increase). On the year, US hearing aid sales are now up by 4.6%—or slightly above the industry’s historical growth rate of 2-4%. In the third quarter of last year, unit sales increased by only 1.0%, so it appears what we’re seeing is solid market growth, albeit just over industry norms.

Combining private-sector and VA sales reveals that 73.5% of all hearing aids dispensed so far in 2013 are BTEs, with over half (51.0%) being BTEs with external receivers (ie, RIC, RITE, etc). This is up from last year’s third-quarter figures of 70.8% and 45.5%, respectively. Likewise, nearly three quarters (73.6%) of all hearing aids dispensed so far this year feature wireless technology.

HIAQ3 2013HAsales
US net unit hearing aid sales, by quarter, for the private/commercial sector (in blue) and the VA (in red), 2007 to present. Overall, unit sales increased by 8.7% in the third quarter (8.0% for private sector and 11.2% for VA) compared to the same period last year. On the year, sales are now up by 4.6%.


Private sector sales in Q3 2013. With its 8% third-quarter increase, private sector sales rose above 600,000 units in quarterly sales for the first time ever (604,942 units). Although these are very strong sales figures, it should be noted that private-sector unit sales growth was flat (0.3%) during last year’s third quarter, a factor that undoubtedly contributes to the present 8% growth figure. Over three-quarters (75.6%) of private-sector hearing aids were BTEs, and BTEs with external receivers (eg, RICs and RITEs) made up 55.6% of all hearing aids sold, compared to 71.7% and 47.6%, respectively, for Q3 2012. ITEs made up 24.4% of sales. Hearing aids incorporating wireless technology constituted 70.6% of all private-sector sales in the third quarter, with wireless technology being present in 87.5% of all RIC/RITEs sold, 64.1% of traditional BTEs, and 37.3% of ITEs.

VA dispensing in Q3 2013. The VA constituted 21.1% of all units dispensed during Q3 2013, compared to 20.1% for the same period last year. Its 11.2% third-quarter growth figure was the largest for the VA since the second quarter of 2010.

Assuming a return to historical growth rates of 2-4% in the fourth quarter, the US hearing industry will find itself just shy of the 3 million unit mark for 2013 (2.97 to 2.99 million units)—but another 8% quarterly increase in Q4 would tip us over the 3 million mark. Whatever the case, taking into account a dysfunctional Congress and its government shutdown battles during Q3, these stronger sales numbers provide hope for better days to come.