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Underpenetrated market

Breaking down the barriers

23 Oct 2023

Today more than 1.6 billion people suffer from hearing loss. Of these, 430* million have disabling moderate to complete hearing loss requiring treatment.

However, less than 20% of those in need of treatment* are fitted with hearing aids, despite the negative impact of hearing loss on individuals and society in general:

• Social isolation and loneliness
• Increased risk of developing dementia
• Higher risk of unemployment
*Source: WHO, Hopkins Medicine

In economic terms, untreated hearing loss costs society more than $980 billion annually* in healthcare, education and lost productivity. The main barriers that prevent people from using hearing aids are:

1. Awareness of the problem and the benefits
2. Access to care
3. Affordable solutions
4. Perception of stigma/association with aging and lower intelligence
5. User experience (complex user journey)

The prevalence of each barrier varies greatly from country to country. At WSA, our mission is to break down each barrier by growing a sustainable business to deliver Wonderful Sound for All.

A resilient industry

Approximately 12 million people worldwide are fitted with new hearing aids each year, representing approximately 21 million hearing instruments. This number is growing at 5-6% annually, driven by a number of key factors, including:

1. Increasing the number of people with disabling hearing loss

a. Growing population

b. Aging population

c.  Noise exposure (concerts, audio behavior, occupation, etc.)

2.  Increase in the number of hearing aid replacement cycles due to longer life expectancy

Historically, little progress has been made in overcoming the barriers which is preventing people with a hearing loss to seek the help they need and as a consequence the hearing aid industry has not grown to its full potential.

The industry is characterized by resilience to general economic turbulence due to factors such as:

1. Growth decoupled from macro effects (population growth, demographic shifts)

2. Public reimbursement support in many markets

3. User group primarily with fixed income, higher net worth and less exposure to unemployment risk

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the market contracted by -15-20% in volume in 2020 as hearing care professionals were forced to close their centers. However, the market bounced back in 2021 with growth of +30%-35% as pent-up demand was released. In addition, during the 2008 financial crisis, the market declined by only about 1% in volume terms.

We help millions of people regain the miracle of hearing.