- Published on 10 September 2019
A seesaw in hearing aid sales is the only clear market indicator so far of any effect of the Brexit process in the UK and Ireland, but there is a simple explanation behind the latest figures.
The stats, produced as part of regular monitoring by the British and Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (BIHIMA) show a 2019 rise and dip in the results of its members National Health Service (NHS) hearing aid unit sales, which climbed 34.7% in the first quarter compared with 2018, then dipped in Q2 by 24%. The ripple is because of earlier excess purchases by the NHS as a stockpiling measure to avert possible problems in the event of complications from the UK's exit from the European Union.
"The security of our supply chains – many of our members manufacture outside the UK - means our industry is in a robust position, even in these uncertain political times when many other markets are under threat. We are encouraged by the continued growth of the UK private sector, as well as by the precautionary measures taken by the NHS in their stock purchases and we anticipate the NHS market will return to full strength in the near future,” said the BIHIMA chairman, Paul Surridge.
In Ireland, the number of units sold dropped by 18%, from 16,200 in Q1 2019 to 13,169 in Q2.
What disruption Brexit may cause to the UK hearing market is, however, still a question of speculation rather than fact. Industry as a whole has faced tough decisions amidst a political and now constitutional wrangle that still has not been settled one way or another, and has led to political extremes just weeks away from the Brexit deadline for the country crashing out with or without a deal. Playing "wait and see", and having basic contingency plans in place, is seen by many as the only option. As a survey of opinions of the major players in UK audiology revealed in Audio Infos issue 128 this July, business has little or no idea what will happen in the event of trade barriers resulting from a no-deal Brexit.
Meanwhile, private sales private sales of hearing instruments in the UK continued their strong performance with sales up 4.4% on Q1, from 82,573 to 86,250 units sold.