- Published on 01 July 2020
A July 1 update from the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA) highlights a 6.4% growth in global hearing aid sales for 2019, but a bright long-term picture over recent years cannot disguise the still unaudited debacle of 2020.
With the damaging effect of coronavirus lockdowns on economic activity now clear to anyone remotely connected with business, exact figures on how the crisis is hitting the hearing health industry are awaited with trepidation, if not outright dread. EHIMA's summer announcement feels like the storekeeper standing mid-tsunami in front of her shop, holding a parasol and saying: "It was looking like such a nice day!"
“From the beginning of the lockdowns until end of June we saw a dramatic global market decline”, EHIMA President Søren Nielsen, perhaps putting it mildly. “The entire hearing care ecosystem is suffering severely,” said Nielsen.
This "severe drop in demand" comes after a good 2019 for the six EHIMA member companies that make hearing aids (Amplifon, Demant, GN Hearing, Sonova, Starkey, and WS Audiology) and who account for more than 90% of global hearing aid production. In 2019, the big six sold 17,058,000 hearing aids (other hearing instruments, such as implants are not included here).
The backdrop to this 6.4% growth in 2019 was 6.5% growth in 2018, and 5.7% growth in 2017, with regular surveys in 15 countries since 2009 suggesting buoyant demand in Europe.
One of the market's continuing everyday problems continues to be unmet need, and EHIMA's announcement points anxiously to the indications from one meta-study that "around 22.6 million people in the European Union live with untreated, disabling hearing loss, leading to annual costs of 185 billion euros".
All in all, this latest EHIMA announcement is a stoical effort to keep confidence high, given the walloping the market is enduring and the potentially slow recovery period as persons with hearing loss adjust to fears of clinic visits, new rules for practice, and learning to use remote telecare options, among other negatives.
In its recent announcement, the tech giant Demant—of which EHIMA President Søren Nielsen is also CEO—heralded the gradual response of markets to the opening up of societies, but he also underlined the prevailing uncertainty on the firm's financial outlook.