New economic analysis by UNT Professor Amyn Amlani published in the euphemistically-titled Assessing the Validity of MarkeTrak IX Adoption Rates1 elegantly smashes to pieces the fatally flawed MarkeTrak IX “study” spewed forth by Hearing Industries Association director Carole Rogin, along with co-conspirators Jan Kihm of AZ Marketing Research and John Graham of Online Survey Solutions. In a nutshell, as we documented in HIA’s MarkeTrak 9: A Steaming Pile Of Manure and More On The Defective HIA MarkeTrak 9 “Study”, the HIA member companies did not like the answers found in previous MarkeTrak studies, with some member hearing aid manufacturers begging to keep the results from being publicly disseminated; so Rogin fired HIA subsidiary Better Hearing Institute director Sergei Kochkin and hired an online polling firm to “deliver the goods” of a glowing report worthy of an MSNBC or Fox News viewer poll, conveniently overlooking the fact that, according to rigorous Pew Research studies, show “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.” Professor Amlani delivers the coup de grâce using the economic principle of demand schedule analysis, recognizing that hearing aid demand is relatively inelastic with respect to price; and that the 22.8% jump in adoption rate in the online MarkeTrak is a bogus result bordering on fraudulent. All that remains now is when the HIA board will oust Rogin for this fiasco.
- More on HIA’s Defective MarkeTrak IX: Pew Report on Telephone vs Web Surveys (December 120, 2015)
- More On The Defective HIA MarkeTrak 9 “Study” (April 17, 2015)
- HIA’s MarkeTrak 9: A Steaming Pile Of Manure (April 17, 2015)
Professor Amlani writes:
Historically, MarkeTrak survey results indicate that the percentage of Americans adopting hearing aids, collectively in the private sector and through the Veteran’s Administration, has ranged between 20.4%, in 1981, and 24.6%, in 2008, with the largest growth between surveys being 1.8% (i.e., MarkeTrak IV in 1997 and MarkeTrak V in 2000).
Recently reported findings from MarkeTrak IX survey indicate that the percentage of Americans who adopt hearing aids has increased to 30.2%,2 or up 5.4%[sic] from 24.6% in 2008 (i.e., MarkeTrak VIII3). This 5.4%[sic] increase in adoption rate between surveys has caused speculation within the profession, calling into questioning the validity of the new survey’s results.
We need to pause here, as the adoption rate increase is 30.2% – 24.6% = 5.6 percentage points, for a 22.8 percent increase. Amlani continues:
In 2015, 35.8 million Americans are estimated to exhibit some form of hearing difficulty (e.g., reduced audibility due to sensorineural damage, reduced transmission of acoustic signal due to conductive component, single-sided deafness).4 Using the 30.2% adoption rate reported in MarkeTrak IX, the estimated number of US hearing aid users is 10.81 million (i.e., 35.8 million x 30.2%).
The prior survey, MarkeTrak VIII, on the other hand, reported an adoption rate of 24.6%, which yielded an estimated number of 8.81 million hearing aid users (i.e., 35.8 million x 24.6%). The difference in estimated hearing aid users between surveys is 2 million Americans. Interestingly, organic growth in this population grew only by an estimated 1.55 million between 2008 and 2014 (i.e., 35.8 million – 34.25 million)……We previously established that the 30.2% adoption rate boasted by MarkeTrak IX results in an estimated 10.81 million Americans using amplification in 2015. This newly estimated adoption rate results in an inflated increase in demand function by 0.23, suggesting that the demand function ranged from a low of -0.50 to a high of -0.68 between 2008 and 2014. The inflated demand function is depicted in Figure 1 by the dashed blue line (i.e., D2). Note that MarkeTrak IX’s demand function is nearly three times the 0.08 change (i.e., -0.45 – 0.37) in demand function seen in the market during this six-year span.
This increased demand function indicates that the retail cost of hearing aids declined, resulting in a substantial increase in quantity of devices sold. This, again, is simply not the case as evidenced by the mere 0.73 million devices sold, as reported by the HIA. Further, the optimal retail cost of a hearing aid has remained essentially constant since 2005, ranging between $1600 and $1700 per unit.5, 6
Although as we previously pointed out7 the hearing aid manufacturers have accurate sales figures and are quite capable of privately debunking MarkeTrak IX, the same cannot be said of the hearing aid dispenser, audiologist, and especially hearing impaired constituencies. Heads at HIA need to roll, as this document is a disservice bordering on embarrassment to the entire hearing health care industry.
What’s more, HIA members and others should refrain from using this flawed MarkeTrak IX data in their marketing, as it could very well draw a negative reaction from the Federal Trade Commission for False and Misleading Advertising.
- Assessing the Validity of MarkeTrak IX Adoption Rates. Amyn Amlani, Hearing Health Matters, June 2, 2015;
- HHTM Exclusive: Findings from new MarkeTrak study show greater hearing aid use, satisfaction. David Kirkwood, April 15, 2015
- MarkeTrak VIII: 25-year trends in the Hearing Health Market. Sergei Kochkin, Better Hearing Institute, 2009
- op cit., MarkeTrak VIII
- Will federal subsidies increase the US hearing aid market penetration rate? Amyn Amlani, Audiology Today, 22(2), 40-46, 2010;
- Amlani AM (Unpublished)
- More On The Defective HIA MarkeTrak 9 “Study” The Hearing Blog, April 17, 2015.