A hearing aid is an electronic device designed to amplify sounds, particularly speech for people with hearing impairments and loss in hearing abilities. A hearing aid consist of a microphone, a loudspeaker, an amplifier and a battery. The microphone picks up the sound, which is made louder with the help of an amplifier so the wearer can hear things more clearly. Hearing aids are incapable of truly correcting a hearing loss but they are an aid to make sounds more accessible. The global hearing aid market has observed an increase in demand as a result of rising geriatric population. Moreover, hearing aid manufactures are involved in developing and evolving new high-tech hearing aids that are more wearable, with enhanced performance and wireless connectivity to electronic devices. The increased sales of digital hearing aid devices has acted as a key factor for the market growth. The development of wireless hearing aids are encouraging more people to opt for hearing aids than ever before. In addition, efficient reimbursement schemes in most countries acted positively for hearing aid market. However, some factors limiting the growth of hearing aid market are elderly population with low income and very few reimbursement plans, particularly in emerging markets. Lack of infrastructure and low average selling price can be one of the obstacle for the growth of hearing aid market in under developed regions.
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The hearing aid market can be segmented in terms of technology and styles. Hearing aid technologies are of three types namely; conventional analogue, analogue programmable and digital programmable hearing aid technologies. Conventional analogue hearing aids are designed with a particular frequency response setting instructed by the audiologist to the manufacturer. Although, some adjustments can be made but this aid essentially amplifies all types of sounds (noise and speech) in the same way and is the least expensive technology. Analogue programmable hearing aids have a microchip that allows the audiologist to program the aid for different listening environments for different hearing loss profile, speech understanding and tolerance for louder noise. Digital programmable hearing aids have all the features of analogue hearing aids but they are more digitized. Digital hearing aids are self-adjusting, flexible in programming and matches specific hearing loss patterns. Digital hearing aids have key benefits such as longer life span, noise reduction, better fitting, improved programmability, wireless and bluetooth connectivity making them slightly expensive and the most demanded hearing aids. The common styles of hearing aids can be divided into behind-the-ear instruments and in-the-ear instruments. The in-the-ear instruments consist of a completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aid that is molded to fit inside the wearer’s ear canal. It is smallest and least visible type and are in most demand. An in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is custom molded and fits partly in the ear canal. It is less visible in the ear than larger styles. An in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid is custom made that fits within the outer portion the ear. It is helpful for people with mild to severe hearing loss. The most appropriate for people of all ages and those with almost any type of hearing loss is the behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid that needs to be hooked over the top of the ear and rests behind the ear. A tube connects the hearing aid to a custom earpiece called an ear mold that fits in ear canal. The receiver-in-canal (RIC) and receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) styles are similar to a behind-the-ear hearing aid with the speaker or receiver in the canal or in the ear. A tiny wire, rather than tubing, connects the hearing aid to the ear mold. Overall, it was observed that behind-the-ear hearing aids dominated the hearing aid market in terms of share.
Geographically, Europe is the largest hearing aid market in the world followed by North America. Presence of large number of geriatric population across the developed countries of Western Europe and patients holding relatively higher purchasing powers is one of the primary factor attributing to its large share. The large population of the U.S. are baby boomers, a generation which is considered the wealthiest and healthiest to that time as they were amongst the first generation of population to get exposed to technologies and economic opportunities. The generation’s oldest population is over 65 years of age and thus have entered the target zone of hearing aid industry. This group is tech savvy and health conscious. This is a vital opportunity for the significant growth of hearing aid market as well as portable medical devices market. Majority of hearing aids are sold in the developed markets, while emerging markets have currently low penetration but high market potential in the near future. Both India and China possess the most attractive healthcare market business because of being the world’s most populated countries resulting in large patient pool. Brazil and Mexico were observed as the most potential countries in rest of the world hearing aid market due to rising disposable income, developing healthcare infrastructure and growing economy.
Some of the major players in the global hearing aid market include Sonova Holding AG, William Demant Holding A/S, GN Resound, Widex A/S, Siemens Healthcare AG, and Starkey Hearing Technologies. The other vendors in the market are GN ReSound, Panasonic Corp., Amplifon SpA, MED-EL GmbH, and Zounds Hearing Inc.
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