In a slow economy, hearing aid sales growth is also slow

For the second quarter in a row, the number of hearing aids sold by manufacturers in the U.S. from July through September increased by less than 1% compared to the same period of 2010. Given the weak economy and some economists’ fears that it may slide back into recession, the overall 2.3% growth in sales for the year to date is no worse than might be expected.

According to the latest quarterly statistical report of the Hearing Industries Association (HIA), 698,675 hearing aids were sold last quarter, 0.94% more than in the third quarter of 2010.

In a change from the usual pattern of recent years during which the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has accounted for the lion’s share of market expansion, what growth there was last quarter occurred mostly in the private, non-governmental sector. Sales to non-VA practitioners increased by 1.11% over last year, while VA purchases rose by only 0.27%.

For the year to date, unit sales were 2,079,258, up by 2.26% from the first three quarters of 2010, when 2,033,178 units were sold.  For the year, VA sales have risen by 3.90% over 2010, while the rest of the market is up by 1.85%.

The percentage of behind-the-ear sales so far this year hit a new high of 69.6%, a little ahead of the 2010 figure of 66.4%. Among the BTEs, 42.6% have the receiver in the ear canal, while the other 57.4% still have the traditional configuration with the receiver in the hearing aid.