Hearing aid market

Part
01
of four
Part
01

Market Size - Hearing Aids: United States

In 2018, the United States market size for hearing aids was approximately $1.8 billion, and about 4.6 million Americans wear hearing aids at least some of the time.

U.S. Market size for hearing aids

  • According to the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association, in 2017, there were 15.05 million hearing aid units sold worldwide.
  • According to Hearing Review, In 2017, there were 3.77 million hearing aid units sold in the United States.
  • The hearing aid market share for the U.S. in 2017 was 25%.
  • The global hearing aid market size was $7.383 billion in 2018.
  • Assuming the U.S. hearing aid market share remained the same for 2018, the U.S. hearing aid market size is $1,845,750,000 or about $1.8 billion.

U.S. Market size in number of users

  • As of 2017, 28.8 million Americans could benefit from hearing aids, but only 16% actually have them and wear them at least some of the time.
  • In 2017, the approximate number of Americans who wore hearing aids at least some of the time was 4,608,000 or 4.6 million.

Hearing aid sales growth

  • In 2018, hearing aid sales increased by 5.3% in the United States.
  • There were nearly 4 million hearing aids sold in the U.S. in 2018 (3,969,985 units).
  • Private sector hearing aid sales increased by 5.95% in 2018, while the sales growth for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) increased by 2.4%.
  • Hearing Review predicts hearing aid sales will hit 4 million units by the end of 2019.

Top Hearing aid brands

  • The top six hearing aid manufacturers account for 98% of the global market.
  • In the U.S., the same six hearing aid manufacturers account for between 80% and 90% of the total market.
  • The top six hearing aid manufacturers by market share are GN ReSound, Sivantos, William Demant, Sonova, Starkey, and Widex.

Additional Helpful findings

  • Of the nearly 4 million hearing aids sold in the U.S. in 2018, 85% were the "BTE-type devices (behind the ear): Reciever-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aids accounted for 72.5% of all hearing aids dispensed in 2018, while traditional BTEs made up 12.7%."
  • Approximately 78% of hearing aids are sold through private companies compared to 22% sold through the VA.
  • Globally, Sonova has a 25% market share, William Demant has a 24% market share, GN ReSound and Sivantos each have a 16% market share, Starkey has an 11% market share, and Widex has an 8% market share.
  • Widex and Sivantos have announced plans to merge, which would create a company with about 24% market share (16% + 8%).
  • Sonova hearing aid brands include Phonak, Lyric, Audeo B-R, and BoleroB.
  • William Demant hearing aid brands include Oticon, Bernafon, and Sonic Innovations.
  • Sivantos has one hearing aid brand, which is Signia (formerly Siemens).
  • GN Hearing hearing aid brands include ReSound and Jabra.
  • Starkey hearing aid brands include Audibel, MicroTech, and NuEar.
  • Widex hearing aid brands include Unique, Dream, and Beyond.
  • In 2013, ReSound introduced LiNX, the first-ever hearing aid designed for iPhones and iPads.
  • In the United States, hearing aids can cost between $2,000 and $7,000.
  • About 30% of Americans experience some degree of hearing loss by age 50. This increases to 45% by age 60, to 70% by age 70, and to 90% by age 80.
  • However, just 15% of Americans with hearing loss by age 50 use hearing aids. This increases to 57% by age 80.
  • Hearing-impaired military veterans aged 55 to 64 are twice as likely as non-veteran Americans to wear hearing aids.

Research Strategy

To find the United States market size for hearing aids, we began with looking for a direct answer from market research companies like Market Watch, Grandview Research, IBISWorld, and Technavio, among others. Unfortunately, all that was available was the global market size. We kept these reports in mind for possible triangulation as we continued to search for a direct answer to the U.S. market size through hearing industry reports from Hearing Review, Hearing Health Matters, HealthyHearing, and more. This strategy provided us with the number of hearing aids sold in 2017 and 2018, which we also kept available for possible triangulation. Our third attempt to find a direct answer was to search for an approximate market size in media sources such as Forbes, Bloomberg, USNews, and Fortune, among others, but the only data found was again the number of units sold.

We switched tactics and began looking for the U.S. market share of the global hearing aid market size. If we could find this information, we could calculate the U.S. market size by multiplying the total market size by the U.S. market share. We repeated the searches through the above-mentioned sources, but all stats related to market share were locked behind paywalls. In addition, we found that most reports segmented the market using North America rather than the United States. Thus, any data found in these sources would have been skewed anyway. It is possible that the United States market share is also provided behind these paywalls, but without access, we have no way of knowing for sure. Searches through industry publications and media sources were also futile, as only major player market shares were given.

At this point, we decided to triangulate the market size using information we already had. Since we knew how many units were sold in the United States, we decided to find the number of units sold worldwide to provide us with the U.S. market share. This strategy was successful. We found that there were 15.05 million hearing aid units sold worldwide in 2017, 3.77 million of which were sold in the United States. By dividing the U.S. number of units by the total number of units, we were able to calculate the U.S. market share as 25% (3.77 million / 15.05 million).

Using that percentage, we could then calculate the market size in dollars by multiplying the global market size by the U.S. market share. The global market size for hearing aids was $7.383 billion in 2017. Using the 25% U.S. market share, we calculated the U.S. market size in dollars to be $1,845,750,000 ($7,383,000,000 x 0.25).

Although optional, there was enough available data to calculate the number of hearing aid users in the United States. In industry publications, we found that about 28.8 million Americans could benefit from hearing aids, but that only 16% actually use them at least some of the time. Therefore, we calculated that about 4,608,000 Americans use hearing aids at least some of the time (28,800,000 x 0.16). All other information found was straightforward and required no calculations.
Part
02
of four
Part
02

Bluetooth Hearing Aids - Leading Companies/Brands: United States

A survey conducted by Hearing Tracker, listed four of the top Bluetooth hearing aid companies/brands in the United States by highest market share. The four companies selected by their market share value are Sonova (30%), William Demant (21%), GN Resound (17%), and Starkey (16%). The four companies main Bluetooth selling brands are Phonak, Oticon, ReSound, and Starkey, respectively. In the survey, Hearing Tracker asked over 2000 consumers about their hearing aid purchase. One of the results of the survey was that they represent all four brands in the top five brands used. This showed their popularity and supported the credibility of the brief. Please see the methodology section for conclusions on how the results were reached. Below, we discuss this topic in more detail.

Sonova

The brand Phonak, represents the company Sonova for Bluetooth hearing aids.

Pricing

  • The average price across the Phonak range is $2,349.
  • The highest price reflected on the Hearing Tracker website is $6,000. The current deal is found under the section “Find nearby hearing aid deals.”

Benefits

  • Phonak has the greatest number of purchasers amongst the consumers surveyed.
  • The Phonak Marvel range highlights clear rich sound, clear speech recognition with less effort.
  • The brand also states it is the world’s first hearing aid that has the ability to classify streaming signals. Their devices are interactable with many Bluetooth devices like smart phones and smart Television.
  • They have a dedicated button for volume control, programs and audio stream mix. The product is water resistant, Apple/Android compatible and includes a phone application. The range includes some rechargeable models.

Audio files/self-adjusting

  • Audio files exist in the form of a customizable listening diary, tunable by a hear care professional.
  • Yes, Phonak can self-adjust to different situations.

Availability

  • As stated on the official website, they are only available through a professional.

William Demant

  • The brand Oticon, represents the company William Demant for Bluetooth hearing aids.

Pricing

  • The average price across the Oticon range is $2,600.
  • The dearest price displayed on the Hearing Tracker website is $5,200. Hearing Tracker supplies the current deal under the section “Find nearby hearing aid deals.”

Benefits

  • The dominant feature of the Oticon range is the product allows you to hear dialogue from diverse directions while suppressing background noise.
  • The devices are Apple/Android compatible and includes a smartphone application. They are water resistant and includes a long-lasting battery.

Audio files/self-adjusting

  • Audio files exist in the form of programmable listening conditions.
  • No claim to the range being self-adjusting was found on the official website.

Availability

  • As stated on official website, they are only available through a professional.

GN Resound

The brand ReSound, represents the company GN Resound for Bluetooth hearing aids.

Pricing

  • The average price across the ReSound range is $2,406.
  • The steepest price displayed on the Hearing Tracker website is $5,900. Hearing Tracker provides the current deal under the section “Find nearby hearing aid deals.”

Benefits

  • ReSound boasts all round, full spectrum sound.
  • The devices are Apple/Android compatible and possesses one of the best smartphone applications.
  • ReSound is rechargeable with all day power an intractable with many Bluetooth devices.
  • A swipe on your smartphone will change the conditions to suit the situation.

Audio files/self-adjusting

  • There are Audio files for diverse listening conditions.
  • No claim to the range being self-adjusting was found on the official website.

Availability

  • As stated on official website, they are exclusively available through a professional.

Starkey

The brand Starkey, represents the company Starkey for Bluetooth hearing aids.

Pricing

  • The average price across the Starkey range is $2,674.
  • Hearing Tracker displayed the highest price on the website at $8,000 (ss6). Hearing Tracker provides the current deal under the section “Find nearby hearing aid deals.”

Benefits

  • The key feature of Starkey Livio AI is Artificial Intelligence (AI) to manage the surrounding environment. The first hearing aid to do so.
  • Starkey Livio AI devices (ss10) are Apple/Android compatible.
  • The included smartphone application Thrive can automatically learn and adjust the hearing aid to the current environment.
  • Thrive can translate over 27 languages, allow remote access to a professional and has a fall assistant.
  • The hearing aids are water resistant and includes a long-lasting battery.

Audio files/self-adjusting

  • Starkey Livio AI provides audio files through the AI application.
  • Yes, through the AI application Thrive, it is self-adjusting.

Availability

  • As stated on official website, they are only available through a professional.

Other Top Brands

  • As per the survey, the other leading brands mentioned are AGX, Bernafon, Miracle Ear, Unitron, Beltone, Signia, Rexton, KS (Costco), Siemens, and Widex.
  • Attached to the brief, is a list of Hearing Tracker’s top 100 brands by company.

Methodology

To identify Bluetooth hearing aid companies/brands in the United States with the most market share we first identified the level (ss1) to which the Bluetooth hearing aid devices belonged to. On “hear.com”, a company with a five-year excellent rating with TRUSTPILOT, a graphical comparison chart provided the levels at which Bluetooth (wireless) devices were found. According to the chart, Bluetooth hearing aids are found at the midrange and premium levels.
The next step in identifying the leading brands was to find information on any market-related data for midrange and Premium companies/Brands. A survey conducted in 2018 by Hearing Tracker, an independent consumer review platform, provided the leading brands and companies by market share and popularity. Over 2000+ consumers were surveyed, and the results confirmed that the brand's popularity represented the market share discussed in the survey.
One of the survey results published the numbers of consumers who bought at each level. Approximately, 54.1% of consumers purchased top-end (premium) brands and 34.3% purchased mid-range brands. A calculated figure of 88.4% was reached by adding 54.1% with 34.3%. From the calculated figure, a reasonable assumption is the top-end (premium) and mid-ranged levels also reflected the leading companies and brands selling Bluetooth enable hearing aids.

This conclusion was derived from the fact that we only found in the first paragraph (ss1) of the methodology, it stated wireless devices (Bluetooth) in mid-range and Premium devices. Second, all the devices listed in the top four of the survey had Bluetooth as a standard feature. HearStore (ss4), also verified the leading brands through their customer reviews on the best brands in 2018. A 2019 survey report supported information on the top companies identified in the Hearing Tracker survey (ss3). The survey listed top hearing aid companies as having around 90% of the market share.

Hearing Tracker (ss6), lists the top four companies holding the largest market share in the United States market as Sonova, William Demant, GN Resound and Starkey. Of the top four brands mentioned in this brief, only Starkey is a United States brand. According to popularity they were placed fifth (ss2).
The online site Hearing Tracker (ss6), provided a comparison chart of each brands top products used to supply the brand's information. The information was cross-referenced with the official companies’ websites.
To ensure the products were not available publicly, we searched for them online on shopping sites like Amazon.

Part
03
of four
Part
03

Demographics - Hearing Aid Buyers/Purchasers: United States

Over 50% of hearing aid buyers are aged between 55 and 74 years. Additionally, buying of hearing aids common among individuals who are retired. Majority of hearing aid purchasers dwell in urban areas.

GENDER

AGE

INCOME LEVELS

Current Employment Status.

EDUCATION LEVELS

  • High School-83%
  • Some College-51%
  • Bachelors-18%
  • >Bachelors-7%

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION.

  • Purchasers of hearing are more in urban areas than in rural areas given factors such as accessibility and more awareness of the hearing ad devices.

BUYER BEHAVIOUR.

  • Studies indicate that most of the hearing aid users make individual decisions to buy hearing aids and engage audiologists from local clinics in fitting the devices.
  • Study findings also reveal that not many hearing aid buyers utilize insurance provider services in purchasing hearing aids.
  • Findings show that Medicare facilitated the purchase of hearing aids is common among buyers who are 55 years and over.
  • The recent elimination of OTC hearing aids barriers has seen an increase in over-the-counter (OTC) purchases.

YOUR RESEARCH TEAM APPLIED THE FOLLOWING STRATEGIES:

To find the demographics breakdown of hearing aid buyers/purchasers in the US in terms of age, gender, income level, education level, and geographic location, we began by scouring through relevant bodies’ websites to find any precompiled statistics on the same. Our efforts to find statistics from bodies such as the National Deaf Center (NDC), American Speech-Hearing-Learning Association and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) proved futile as we found statistics dating back to 2012 and reference to surveys conducted more than five years ago, which we overruled for being outdated.

We shifted our focus to industry publications to locate any reports that contained relevant information. While we found a report by Healthy Hearing that had general statistics including the number of US citizens who could benefit from hearing aids versus the number of users, it did not address the demographics. Another report identified was by NCBI but was not used because it was outdated having been published in 2014. Lend an Ear Outreach had statistics but made reference to the outdated statistics as published on the NIDCD website. An article published by the Hearing Aid Experts featuring Brooklyn Audiology Associates outlined FAQs with answers that were more on general statistics around hearing loss in the US rather than on specific demographics.
After an extensive search, we identified one survey report by Heath Tracker that contained information on the demographics of hearing aid purchasers /buyers in the US. Following the unavailability of other sources, we have used data from the survey as a proxy for the needed statistics on the demographics or the US hearing aid purchasers.

Even so, the Health Tracker report did not have information on the education levels of hearing aid users/purchasers. As such we utilized a report by the National Deaf Center (deaf defined as any hearing impairment or complication) that provided an outline of the education levels of deaf people. Following unavailability of other reports that contained information on education levels, we utilized the report under the assumption that the number of deaf people in the surveys represents the number of hearing aid buyers.
Part
04
of four
Part
04

Hearing Aids - Where are they Purchased?: United States

Approximately 90% of hearing aid sales are made in-store through private audiologists, hearing aid dispensers, and retailers. Only 3.3% of hearing aid purchases are made through direct mail channels. In 2020, a new law will allow people to purchase hearing aids over the counter without a prescription, which will likely increase online hearing aid sales and allow for new entrants into the market to challenge traditional manufacturers.

Private sales vs. VA sales

  • In 2016, 78% of hearing aids in the United States were sold via private retailers.
  • The remaining 22% were sold through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
  • In 2018, the percentage of hearing aids sold via private retailers increased to 81.2%.
  • In 2018, the remaining 18.8% were sold through the VA.

Private hearing aid market sales

  • About 90% of hearing aid sales go through private audiologists and dispensers. These are brick-and-mortar establishments that are independent, manufacturer-owned, or chains (Costco, for example).
  • As of 2016, 26% of people who purchase hearing aids do so through small and independent chains and another 26% purchase hearing aids through "other buying groups for independent and small chains." These two channels make up the majority of hearing aid purchases (52%).
  • Buying groups are organizations that purchase hearing aids in bulk to get a better price per unit. They then pass on these savings to the independent and small retailers.
  • Another 32% of hearing aid purchases are made directly from manufacturers either online or via their retail stores (9% from GN (Beltone), 7% from Elite (Amplifon), 6% from Starkey (Audibel), 6% from Amplifon (Miracle Ear), 2% from Demant, 1% from Sonova (Connect), and 1% from Sivantos (Hear USA)).
  • Of chain retailers, 12% of hearing aid purchases go through Costco.
  • Another 1% purchase their hearing aids from Walmart and less than 1% purchase them through CVS Pharmacy.
  • Walmart's sales of FDA-approved hearing aids are strictly online.
  • As of 2016, approximately 3.3% of hearing aid owners, purchased their devices through direct mail orders.
  • Direct mail purchasers are most likely to be older retired males in the lower income bracket. They are also most likely to be limited users, averaging three hours of use per day compared to 10 hours for regular hearing aid users.

Online hearing aid sales

  • The Federal Drug Administration "doesn’t specifically state that online hearing aid sales are permissible, but they also don’t say they are impermissible."
  • Regulations of online hearing aids are left up to each state, "making internet commerce very tricky for attempting to sell hearing aids online."
  • Online Personal Sound Amplification Products or PSAPs, are almost exclusively labeled "hearing amplifiers" or "hearing devices," meaning they do not qualify as actual hearing aids in terms of sales numbers.
  • The majority of online hearing device sales are those that are not approved by the FDA as hearing aids. Instead, they are non-medical devices "registered with the FDA" (i.e. PSAPs).

Future outlook

  • In 2017, the FDA Reauthorization Act was signed into law and will go into effect in 2020. This law will allow for the over-the-counter (OTC) sale of hearing aids (not just PSAPs).
  • This law will allow hearing patients to purchase OTC hearing aids (OTC HAs) "without any kind of prescription or the involvement of a licensed professional."
  • This law will likely increase online hearing aid sales since it will empower "individuals to select and fit their own devices."
  • The electronics company Bose has already received FDA approval for the first "fully self-programmable hearing device," which will likely become "one of the first OTA HAs to hit the market."
  • The entrance of consumer electronics companies into the OTC hearing aid market could pose a major threat to traditional hearing aid companies.

Research Strategy

In an effort to determine where people in the United States purchase hearing aids, we searched through industry publications such as Hearing Health Matters, Hearing Review, and Everyday Hearing. This led us to statistics from 2016 that showed the breakdown of retail sales outlets. As this article was published in 2018, we assumed that 2016 is the most recent year for which this type of data is available. Unfortunately, this breakdown did not provide us with the percentage of hearing aids that are purchased online versus in-store, so we continued our research and found a 2017 study from Everyday Hearing that mentioned that 90% of all hearing aid purchases are made through audiologists and dispensers. Upon further examination, we learned that these purchases are made on behalf of patients after they have completed a hearing examination. Some of these purchases are made online, but by the audiologist and not the consumer. As such, we assumed that the 90% figure given in this report means that consumers purchase their hearing aids from brick-and-mortar locations 90% of the time.

We continued our search for a more direct answer to how many people purchase hearing aids online by examining audiology and hearing aid manufacturer websites. However, what we found is that hearing aids that have been approved by the FDA currently cannot be sold without a prescription from an audiologist. Other devices, that are not hearing aids, but instead are "hearing devices" or "hearing amplifiers" can be sold without any audiologist involvement. However, these are not considered hearing aid sales. In 2017, though, a law was passed that will allow for the over-the-counter sales of hearing aids beginning in 2020. This means that while online sales of hearing aids are currently a very small percentage of overall sales, this will likely change next year when people will no longer be required to see an audiologist before buying an FDA-approved hearing aid. We did learn that all of Walmart's hearing aid sales are online, but according to the 2016 channel sales, Walmart only represents 1% of all hearing aid purchases.

Still not satisfied with a lack of solid figures for online hearing aid sales, we continued our search through academic databases, hoping to find studies of hearing aid purchases that may include a breakdown of purchasing channels. Fortunately, we came across an NCBI study that provided the percentage of people who purchase hearing aids through direct mail, along with a demographic profile of these buyers. Although this study did not provide information on online sales, we felt the direct mail percentage would be indicative of the low percentage of people who purchase hearing aids through channels other than retail.
Sources
Sources

From Part 02
Quotes
  • "There are three main hearing aid technology levels that meet the needs of those with mild, moderate, or severe hearing loss, all with different features and designs. The chart below provides a brief overview of the kind of technology that is present at each level with their respective price range. Whether it’s a premium, mid-range, or basic device, all our hearing aids provide excellent sound quality, optimal speech clarity, as well as feedback and background noise reduction. "
Quotes
  • " At some point, we also reached out to our friends over at the Hearing Loss Association of America, who agreed to survey their followers as well."
  • "We asked 2000+ consumers about the price of their hearing aids"
  • "We asked our followers which level of technology they purchased (top-end, mid-range, or low-end). The majority (54%) reported purchasing top-end hearing aids, about a third reported purchasing mid-range, and less than four percent reported purchasing low-end."
  • "Our results are more or less in line with previous research from Bernstein Research (2015). According to Bernstein, Sonova, which manufactures Phonak and Unitron, had 30% market share in 2015. In our survey, Phonak and Unitron owners made up 26.7% of the sample. William Demant, which manufactures Oticon, Bernafon, and Sonic, had 21% market share in 2015. In our survey, Oticon, Bernafon, and Sonic owners made up 19.7% of the sample."
Quotes
  • "Some of the prominent market players are Phonak; Benson Hearing; GN Store Nord A/S; Starkey; MED-EL; William Demant Holding A/S; Medtronic; Widex USA, Inc.; and Sivantos Pte LTD. The market is dominated by leading six companies: Sonova, William Demant, Sivantos, GN ReSound, Starkey Technologies, and Widex, accounting for over 90% share of the overall market."