The PSAP and Direct Mail Hearing Aid Market

June 25, 2010


Within the last 2 years we have seen an increased proliferation of one-size-fits all hearing aids as well as personal sound amplifying products (PSAP) advertised on television and by direct mail. They can be purchased over the Internet and through the mail as well as from eBay, Amazon.com, most pharmacies, hardware stores, Radio Shack, and Sears. In Google searches many of these products come up on the first couple of search pages when you search on "hearing aids" and are sponsored links under the search term "hearing loss". Most of these products clearly state that they are not intended to compensate for hearing loss; but it is clear from their advertising that they target people with hearing loss.

In our latest MarkeTrak VIII study we looked at the size of the market as well as the demography of those who use them. We concluded the following:

  • Approximately 1.5 million people with hearing impairment use either direct-mail or personal sound amplifier products (PSAPs) to compensate for their hearing loss;

  • Users of these devices, on average, have incomes $10,000 less than those of custom hearing aid users;

  • Despite the warning from the FDA that PSAPs should be used only when hearing loss is ruled out, it is apparent that approximately 3 out of 4 PSAP or direct-mail hearing aid users have hearing loss profiles equivalent to those of custom hearing aid users;

  • The PSAP user has been aware of their hearing loss, on average, for 10 years compared to 3 years for the typical hearing aid user;

  • While there is little doubt that PSAPs are used to compensate for hearing loss, a reasonable estimate is that less than 18% of PSAP users substituted PSAPs for custom hearing aids. In the absence of PSAPs in the marketplace, it's likely that the majority would have lived with their hearing loss.