Global Hearing Health
Hearing aid adoption is on the rise globally, with a significant jump in the numbers of people using hearing aids in the past three years. This spike in hearing aid use was observed in several countries across Europe, as well as in the US, by the EuroTrak and MarkeTrak research series, and suggests that the Covid pandemic may have accelerated adoption.
The EuroTrak studies series, first launched in 2009, aims to raise public awareness of the most important issues surrounding hearing loss and hearing care. To date, the study has been conducted in 16 countries, involving over 630,000 people.
The most recent UK EuroTrak (2022) survey determined that 8.8% of all the people in the UK said they have a hearing loss – among adults aged 18 years or older, 10.5% said they have a hearing loss.
Of these, the proportion who use hearing aids has significantly increased in recent years. According to the 2022 survey, the number of people who say they have hearing loss and use hearing aids was 52.8%, whereas in 2018 this figure was 47.6%. Looking back further, in 2015, only 42.4% of those who had a hearing loss used hearing aids.
The Italy Eurotrak 2022 survey found that while there was lower hearing aid penetration in Italy, use had nonetheless increased in the past four years, rising to 35.2% of those with self declared hearing loss in 2022 compared with 29.5% in 2018. Denmark enjoys a higher rate of hearing aid adoption rate, but one that is more stable – some 55.4% of those with self declared hearing loss reported using hearing aids, compared with 53% in 2016.
The use of hearing aids in France has also increased significantly. In 2022, 45.7% of those surveyed who said that they had hearing loss used hearing aids, while in 2018 that proportion was 41%, showing a jump of about 10% in four years.
EuroTrak Netherlands 2022 found that 45% of those who say they have a hearing loss use hearing aids, compared with a figure of 41% from a similar survey in 2016, while in Germany, the 2022 survey found that 41.1 percent of the population who consider themselves to have hearing loss use hearing aids, an increase in uptake of 10 percent since the first study in 2009.
Satisfaction with hearing aids from users was almost universal, the various survey results also show. In France, 96% of hearing aid owners in the survey said their hearing aids improve their quality of life in some way and in the Netherlands 95% of hearing aid users said the same thing.
Unsurprisingly, many respondents admitted that they should have gotten their hearing aids sooner – for example, two-thirds of hearing aid users in the UK said this, 67% in the Netherlands, while in France 62% agreed with this statement.
The surveys also highlight the significant positive impacts of the use of hearing aids across all aspects of life. Survey respondents reported improvements in communication effectiveness, social life, ability to participate in group activities and self-confidence with the use of hearing aids. In all surveys, it was evident that hearing aid owners have a lower risk of being depressed, quality of sleep seems to improve if those experiencing hearing loss use hearing aids and hearing aid owners are less exhausted in the evening.
Cost is a major barrier to hearing aid adoption; yet while many people who do not avail of hearing aids cite “affordability” as a key factor, there is low awareness of third party reimbursement or support.
The EuroTrak 2022 UK survey showed that 71% of the hearing aid owners had received a free of charge NHS hearing instrument, while 27% got their hearing aids from the private sector. A majority of people with hearing loss without hearing aids did not know whether a third party would pay any part of their hearing aids. In France, some 89% of the participants in the survey who use hearing aids received some form of third party reimbursement but again there was low awareness of this support among hearing aid non-users.
In the US, the MarkeTrak survey highlights similar concerns about affordability but more than half of hearing aid owners (54%) reported some form of financial assistance in covering the cost of their hearing aids.
Despite the high prevalence of hearing loss across Europe and an increase in hearing aid adoption in recent years, on average at least half of those who report hearing loss do not use a hearing aid. The benefits of hearing aid use are well-documented and the majority of those who use hearing aids reported they wished they had gotten them sooner. Affordability is a key concern, one that EHIMA believes should be allayed with whole or partial reimbursement via health insurance.