The global hearables market continues its ascent, with a new report from Futuresource Consulting showing year-on-year shipment growth of 13% in 2022. That’s despite a slowdown in true wireless growth, attributed to a combination of market saturation in developed markets, poor performance in Eastern Europe due to the Russia-Ukraine war, and a slowdown in the Chinese market.
The Futuresource report addresses consumer hearables, hearing aids, OTC hearing aids and PSAPs, with hearables the largest category by far. Hearables out-sell the second-largest category, hearing aids, by nearly 14 to one, and achieved 341 million units in 2022.
“The market picture is one of convergence, with common ground forming and expanding in the region between hearables and hearing aids,” says Saranraj Mathivanan, Senior Market Analyst, Futuresource Consulting. “While hearables are still primarily used for entertainment, many people are using the microphone feature for voice and video chats, both socially and for work. From there, it’s not a large leap into hearing aid territory, particularly as features like conversational enhancement and biometric sensors begin to pervade the form factor.
“The integration of GPS and voice assistants will also unlock new hearables use cases. Throw in accelerometers, GPS and the potential of Ultra-Wideband (UWB) for precise location, and hearables will begin to interact with the local environment. From there, add in 5G connectivity, and you’ve created an always-on, edge-of-network device, one that is untethered, independent of the smartphone, and capable of interacting more intelligently.”
Futuresource also expects the hearing aid market to grow 10% from its pandemic rebound in 2021, to reach 25 million units in 2022, once all the numbers are in. The market is far from saturated, with just 7.2% of the hearing-impaired population owning at least one hearing aid. However, on a country level there are wide variations in penetration, with the UK leading at 45% of people with hearing loss owning at least one hearing aid. The untapped potential lies in markets with low or relatively low saturation and a rapidly ageing population, such as Japan, China and India.
Futuresource notes that penetration will begin to accelerate, driven by ageing populations, increased noise pollution, and excessive use of headphones at high volumes. New OTC products and product innovation will also put weight behind the momentum, particularly as the FDA finalised rules on OTC hearing aid products in August 2022. This has presented another avenue of opportunity, with a raft of new launches in the second half of 2022, although few collaborations took place between CE suppliers and hearing aid manufacturers.
“Due to the strict requirements for medical certification, the new OTC regulations cannot be interpreted as an open invitation for CE vendors to flood the OTC market,” says Mathivanan. “However, hearables with conversational enhancing features will play a role, and may be a stepping stone to promoting wider OTC hearing aid use. We also anticipate tremendous growth in the conversational enhancement market following Apple's arrival.”
Looking to the future, the specialist research firm expects hearables to grow to 670 million units by 2026, generating $72 billion in retail revenues worldwide. Over the same timeframe, hearing aids and OTC hearing aids segments are expected to grow to 32 million units and six million units respectively.
For more information on Futuresource Consulting’s new hearables market report, or to make a purchase, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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