As hearing loss becomes a better diagnosed and treated ailment, the global hearing market is expanding. The rise of new technologically sophisticated hearing aid devices has increased demand as the aids become more discrete and better functioning. Combined with an increased social awareness of hearing loss, the increase in demand, along with country-specific reimbursement programs, has driven market growth worldwide. Other factors, however, limit the growth of the market. For example, the lack of reimbursement plans, especially in emerging markets, combined with the low income of elderly populations is an obstacle to increased sales.
In the broadest terms, the hearing aid market is segmented by both technology (see Earlens hearing aid) and style. On the technological side, the devices are commonly referred to as conventional analog, analog programmable and digital programmable. Conventional analog devices respond a particular frequency response setting; these devices respond to minimal adjustments and are the least sophisticated of the current hearing aids. An analog programmable aid will incorporate a microchip to allow the audiologist to program the aid for different listening environments. Finally, digital hearing aids are the most flexible and powerful devices; they can be self-adjusting with on-the-fly programming from a mobile device with a specific app.
Looking forward to market growth, Europe and North America are the two largest markets. Wealthy populations in need of the technology have driven this growth. In the United States, for example, baby boomers are entering the target zone of the hearing aid industry; additionally, this population is financially capable of obtaining the devices and technologically savvy enough to enjoy the benefits of the most sophisticated aids. These developed markets are established as the leading locales for sales, but emerging markets such as India and China offer growth potential, as do Brazil and Mexico with a rising middle class and a developing healthcare infrastructure.