Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids represented less than 20% of hearing aid sales prior to 2000 and appeared to be on the decline as a style of hearing aid choice by consumers. With the introduction of open-fit hearing aids and receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids (RIC) however, BTEs now represent 63% of all hearing aid sales. In looking at the resurgence of BTE hearing aids, we wanted to answer two key questions in our MarkeTrak VIII series on the consumer experience with hearing aids:
- Did mini-BTE hearing aids result in market expansion?
- Do mini-BTEs improve the consumer's experience with hearing aids?
Here are the key findings from this positive study on mini-BTEs (March HJ):
• Mini-BTE hearing aids did not tap into younger segments of people with hearing loss.
• But, mini-BTE hearing aids are expansionary (e.g. new users) influencing more affluent and more active elderly consumer segments to come forward for a solution for their hearing loss; they also tapped into segments of people with milder hearing losses.
• Mini-BTE hearing aids did not improve consumer perceptions of fit and comfort, benefit, value, or impact reductions of hearing aids not being worn; nor did they generate more positive word-of-mouth advertising or develop greater hearing aid brand loyalty.
• However, when we control for degree of hearing loss, mini-BTE hearing aids would appear to offer significant improvements in overall satisfaction, cosmetics, sound quality and multiple environmental listening utility.