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New Study Shows Consumer Interest in More Affordable, Easier-to-Purchase Hearing Loss Solutions

Arlington, VA – October 9, 2014 – 
A new study released today of adult Americans with hearing loss, shows that only one in 25 of those surveyed  now own Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs) and nearly 40 percent are interested in over-the-counter products to help them hear better. Additionally, more than two-thirds of those consumers want a more streamlined process for purchasing hearing assistance products. 
According to the Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA)® study, Personal Sound Amplification Products: A Study of Consumer Attitudes and Behavior, consumers say cost is a major barrier to seeking help for their hearing difficulties and purchasing hearing aids. But PSAPs may help overcome this obstacle to better hearing. 

The study reports that nearly half of online U.S. adults – 98 million Americans – have some degree of hearing loss, ranging from a little hearing difficulty to being diagnosed with hearing loss by a medical professional. While both hearing aids and PSAPs can help consumers hear better in many scenarios, a pair of hearing aids can be cost-prohibitive, ranging in price from $1,000 to $6,000. PSAPs, however, offer consumers an entry point at about one-tenth the cost of hearing aids, from $100 to $600 for each device.

“The high cost of hearing aids, the inconvenience and the cost of doctor appointments mean most adults with hearing problems don’t get the hearing assistance they need,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA. “People with hearing loss deserve more options than just expensive hearing aids. PSAPs are affordable, readily-available and much more in line with what American consumers are willing to spend to hear well.”

Among the key findings of the study:

  • There is demand for PSAPs among consumers with trouble hearing. While only a fraction of those diagnosed with hearing loss (six percent) and those with some or a lot of trouble hearing (four percent) currently own a PSAP, nearly two out of five would be interested in purchasing an “over-the-counter” product to help them hear better.
  • More than two-thirds (69 percent) of adult Americans with hearing difficulty who responded to the survey want the ability to purchase hearing assistance products in the same ways they now buy reading glasses. At the same time, a significant majority (84 percent) of Americans with hearing difficulty would go to a medical or hearing health care professional to obtain advice.
  • Retailers are the preferred purchase channel for “non-prescription” hearing devices. Among consumers interested or very interested in purchasing a “non-prescription” hearing device, three-fourths (73 percent) are willing to purchase from a drug store, more than half (55 percent) from a big-box or discount store, and almost half (48 percent) via online channels.
  • Among those interested in purchasing PSAPs, two-in-five (41 percent) are likely to use the devices every day, in any situation. Half of PSAP owners use the devices to listen to TV, a quarter use them in other situations and a tenth use PSAPs every day, in any situation.

Earlier this year, CEA urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take steps to ensure regulatory clarity between hearing aids and PSAPs to enable PSAP manufacturers to effectively market their products to Americans who can benefit from sound amplification. 

“Federal marketing restrictions have remained mostly unchanged since the late 1970s, despite advances in PSAP technology,” said Shapiro. “The FDA’s proposed PSAP guidance in its current form blurs the distinctions between hearing aids and PSAPs. Without regulatory clarity, the millions of Americans who could benefit from affordable and readily-accessible hearing solutions will remain unaware of the valuable help PSAPs can provide. Those suffering from hearing loss should be able to decide for themselves what technology will give them the most freedom to live – and hear – as they choose.”

To view the study, click here