Buoyed by a relatively strong fourth quarter, the U.S. hearing aid market ended 2011 with an increase in unit sales of 2.96% over 2010, according to the latest quarterly statistical report from the Hearing Industries Association (HIA).
The 2,766,301 hearing aids sold last year by manufacturers to hearing care professionals marked the highest annual total ever, 79,349 more than the record of 2,686,952 set the year before.
The modest increase in sales was fairly evenly divided between private and governmental (primarily Department of Veterans Affairs) clinics. The former purchased 2,208,978 instruments from manufacturers, 58,525 (2.7%) more in 2011 than in 2010, while sales to the government increased by 20,824 (3.9%).
Last year’s 2.96% growth rate was slightly greater than the 2.84% in 2010. Going into the final three months of 2011, the market had risen by only 2.26%. But fourth-quarter sales of 687,042, 5.12% ahead of 2010 and the largest quarterly gain in two years, closed the year on a positive note.
HALF THE GROWTH WAS IN CALIFORNIA
Leading the way in 2011 was California, where 246,448 hearing aids were sold (not counting VA sales). That was 28,224 (12.9%) more than in the previous year. While two smaller states (North Carolina, +13.6%; Rhode Island, +19.8%) had sharper growth, the increase in California, where 11.1% of all hearing aids were sold last year, accounted for almost half of the growth nationwide.
Nevada (+12.0%) and New Hampshire (+10.4%) also had double-digit growth in sales. The largest declines were in North Dakota, down 35.3%; Montana, -18.1%; and Washington, -12.0%. Despite the sharp downturns in their hearing aid markets last year, Washington and North Dakota had the most sales per 1000 residents last year, 13.2 per 1000 in the former and 12.9 in the latter.
The popularity of behind-the-ear instruments continued its decade-long climb. Seventy percent of the hearing aids sold in 2011 were BTEs, up from 68% in 2010. Of the BTEs, 49% had the receiver in the ear, while 51% were in the traditional receiver-in-the-aid style.