UK hearing device sales start 2021 with pandemic-attributed dip, but recovery “going strong” says industry




Hearing instrument sales in the UK started this year with a gloomy first-quarter dip against the 2020 Q4 revival, an “unsurprising” event against a backdrop of increased Covid-19 cases and spring lockdown restrictions, say manufacturers. A total of 326k were sold Q1; in Q4, 2020, 451k.

To give those figures - issued by the British Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (BIHIMA) - some perspective, from the second quarter of 2012 until the disastrous first pandemic debacle of Q2, 2020, UK sales had regularly topped 400k units, even rising above 500k in Q1, 2019.

Breaking the latest UK figures down, Q1 2021 saw approximately 248k hearing instruments sold in the NHS, a 23.4% decline on the previous year just before the first lockdown back in March 2020, down 30% on Q4 2020. The private sector fared better than the public sector, but still showed a 6.7% decrease on Q1 2020, down 18.9% on Q4 2020.

Ireland follows a similar trajectory with just over 15.5k instruments sold in Q1, down 12.2% on Q4. Q1 shows a 6.8% decrease on units sold versus the same quarter last year.

© BIHIMA Ireland figures Q1 2021

“While the final quarter of 2020 saw a significant uplift in hearing aid sales, compared with this first quarter of 2021, the drop is nothing like the significant shortfalls of Q2 and Q3 during the lockdowns last year. Recovery is still going strong; the vaccination programme is well underway, and pent-up demand for instruments is materialising, so we can expect to see a strong bounce back in this next quarter,” said BIHIMA chair, Paul Surridge.