The hearing aid market in Germany: What influence does technical progress have on the reimbursement market?

Hearing loss is one of the most common diseases in Germany. Currently, around 19% of all Germans (13.3 million people) suffer from reduced hearing ability – and the probability of developing the disease increases with age. Due to the demographic development in Germany, the number of people affected is expected to increase. Only 5.4 million people have been diagnosed with hearing loss by a doctor and only 3.7 million wear hearing aids. This results in an estimated 39 billion euros in social damage each year. In recent years, however, the willingness to wear a hearing aid has risen sharply as hearing aids have become smaller and smaller while offering more additional functions and thus becoming more attractive.

New supply channels in a consolidated market

In a market that is predominantly consolidated on the provider side, new supply channels are a possible approach for new competitors to enter the market. A few years ago, for example, the so-called shortened care pathway (the physician as consulting acoustician) was brought into play. Today, with technological progress, other possibilities for the supply of hearing aids are emerging, ranging from Bluetooth connectivity, hearing contact lenses to fuel cell technology. By international standards, Germany is considered one of the most important markets for modern hearing aid acoustics. In conjunction with digitization measures in the healthcare sector, such as e-prescription, it may therefore be possible in the future to offer care online, completely detached from local branches.

Changing market dynamics for the benefit of patients

If another option for care in the form of an online business model is to become reality, all the market players involved must first come to an agreement. These are the Federal Joint Committee, which determines the laws and guidelines for aids, the Federal Guild of Hearing Care Professionals, which represents the interests of its members, and the health insurance companies, which reimburse the care provided by the service providers. Each of these stakeholders has different interests regarding the further development of the market. It is in the interest of patients to have the widest possible choice of good hearing aids at no extra cost. Currently, the additional costs still amount to an average of over 1,230 euros for 52% of all hearing aid users. However, this problem could be solved with more efficient supply channels in the future.

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