Hearing aid manufacturers posted solid gains in unit sales during the first quarter of 2012, according to the Hearing Industries Association’s latest quarterly statistical report. Manufacturers reported total net U.S. sales of 724,128 hearing aids, 5.3% more than in the first quarter of 2011. The year-to-year gain was the largest for any first quarter since 2006.
While one strong quarter is no guarantee of a good year, if sales do continue to rise at this pace, 2012 will see the largest increase in unit sale since 2009. A 5.3% gain would lift the total market for the year above 2.9 million for the first time.
In most recent years, purchases by the federal government have increased faster than those by the private sector. However, in the first quarter of 2012, non-governmental audiologists and hearing instrument specialists purchased 581,856 units, 5.4% more than a year ago. Sales to the government, primarily the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), rose by 4.8% to 142,272. Their purchases accounted for 19.6% of the total U.S. market.
BTE SHARE LEVELING OFF, BUT NOT RITEs
Last quarter saw an interruption and, possibly, the end of a long trend in which behind-the-ear (BTE) instruments rose from being less than 20% of the total hearing aid market to over 70%. For Q1 of 2012, the percentage of BTEs sold was slightly lower than it was in the equivalent period of the preceding year. In the first three months of 2012, 509,236 BTEs were sold, 70.3% of the total market. In the first quarter of 2011, BTEs accounted for 70.9% of all sales.
BTEs had a 71.7% market share in the fourth quarter of 2011, which may turn out to be the high-water mark for this style’s resurgence, which began about a decade ago with the introduction of mini-BTEs.
Another trend continued in the first quarter. The portion of BTE hearing aids with the receiver in the ear reached 63%, up from 59% a year ago. Only two years earlier, in the first quarter of 2009, most BTEs (58%) were of the traditional style, with the receiver in the hearing aid.