More On The Defective HIA MarkeTrak 9 “Study”

More On The Defective HIA MarkeTrak 9 “Study”

After we published our article on how we believe the new MarkeTrak 9 survey is a “steaming pile of manure,” a loyal reader pointed us to a highly relevant Pew Research Center study on Older Adults and Technology1 showing how “seniors continue to lag in tech adoption.” Another sharp-eyed reader caught that “Ninety-eight percent of people with CIC (completely-in-the-canal) said they were satisfied3 — Is that 98% figure from before, or after the credit returns are counted?!

Related Coverage:

Pew polling is the worldwide gold standard, with well-researched and documented methodologies producing relevant studies for policymakers, academia, and the media. For several years now they have been tracking Internet use in various demographic strata, including the hearing industry-crucial over-65 demographic, with an important bifurcation in this group. From the Older Adults and Technology study:

America’s seniors have historically been late adopters to the world of technology compared to their younger compatriots, but their movement into digital life continues to deepen, according to newly released data from the Pew Research Center.Pew-PI_14.04.01_seniorsTech In this report, we take advantage of a particularly large survey to conduct a unique exploration not only of technology use between Americans ages 65 or older and the rest of the population, but within the senior population as well.

Two different groups of older Americans emerge. The first group (which leans toward younger, more highly educated, or more affluent seniors) has relatively substantial technology assets, and also has a positive view toward the benefits of online platforms. The other (which tends to be older and less affluent, often with significant challenges with health or disability) is largely disconnected from the world of digital tools and services, both physically and psychologically. [Emphasis added: Ed.]

As the internet plays an increasingly central role in connecting Americans of all ages to news and information, government services, health resources, and opportunities for social support, these divisions are noteworthy—particularly for the many organizations and individual caregivers who serve the older adult population. Among the key findings of this research:

Six in ten seniors now go online, and just under half are broadband adopters… [Emphasis in original: Ed.]

Pew-01-seniors-lag-in-tech-adoptionIn April 2012 the Pew Research Center found for the first time that more than half of older adults (defined as those ages 65 or older) were internet users.2 Today, 59% of seniors report they go online—a six-percentage point increase in the course of a year—and 47% say they have a high-speed broadband connection at home. In addition, 77% of older adults have a cell phone, up from 69% in April 2012.

But despite these gains, seniors continue to lag behind younger Americans when it comes to tech adoption. And many seniors remain largely unattached from online and mobile life—41% do not use the internet at all, 53% do not have broadband access at home, and 23% do not use cell phones.

Younger, higher-income, and more highly educated seniors use the internet and broadband at rates approaching—or even exceeding—the general population; internet use and broadband adoption each drop off dramatically around age 75. [Emphasis in original: Ed.]

These Pew Research results are important to everyone in the hearing care industry, from the solo dispenser & audiologist all the way up to the largest adult clinics, and to hearing aid and (especially) assistive device manufacturers, including internet-enabled devices such as CaptionCall and CapTel telephones. What’s more, we don’t foresee 8-10% annual growth in over-65 Internet adoption to continue for more than 2-3 years with it peaking at around 70%, as Internet access in US residential facilities for the elderly is dodgy at best (just ask any CaptionCall installer, or try to find a working WiFi zone the next time you visit your great aunt in her assisted living home).

Separately, every hearing aid manufacturer conducts detailed analysis of hearing aid credit returns, such as dumping the program and examining the shell for modifications as part of their “six sigma” quality assurance programs, as well as the overall percentage of returns for accounting purposes: We are quite certain that hearing aid manufacturer insiders who have access to this data are looking quite askance at the 98% CIC satisfaction rate, especially in comparison to the 78% ITE rate; and when one figure is highly suspect even after the prepublication vetting, then every figure is suspect.

Past MarkeTrak studies have provided valuable insight to every member of the hearing professional community, including organizations of the hearing impaired constituency such as AGBell, for anyone smart enough to read them, as among other things they gave guidance on Best Practices such as Real Ear Measurement. On The Other Hand, they also presented the hearing aid manufacturers with painful truths they neither wanted to even know about, much less be publicly available; and in fact several years ago there was pressure to not publicly release this valuable information. With MarkeTrak 9, it appears that HIA has decided to take a third path, namely publishing glowing-but-worthless results that are no more than industry puffery that belong in the barnyard~


  1. Older Adults and Technology Use: Aaron Smith, Pew Research Center, April 3, 2014;
  2. Older Adults and Internet Use: Kathryn Zickuhr and Mary Madden, Pew Research Center, June 6, 2012;
  3. HHTM Exclusive: Findings from new MarkeTrak study show greater hearing aid use, satisfaction: David Kirkwood, Hearing Health Matters, April 15, 2015
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About the author

Dan Schwartz

Electrical Engineer, via Georgia Tech

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