Hearing Aid Devices and Opportunities
Japan’s aging population poses several challenges for Japanese society, although it also presents a number of opportunities for the healthcare industry. One area within healthcare we have identified as having enormous opportunity is with Hearing Impairment.
A survey conducted by the Japan Hearing Instruments Manufactures has observed that ONLY 14% of people with hearing impairments are using a hearing aid device. Another study shows that around 13% of the Japanese population suffer hearing loss – which equates to around 14 million people. Which leaves around 12 million people suffering hearing loss WITHOUT a hearing device and this number of people is expected to rise as the population continues to age. One reason for people not turning to hearing aids is because public subsidies in Japan do not cover hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing impairments, leaving the cost to be completely covered by the patients themselves.
One barrier we see to the sale of hearing aids in Japan is the fact that a lot of it is done online. Internet sales companies sell a wide range of products but lack the proper method to fit their clients with their newly bought hearing aids. Large electronic retailers like Yodobashi camera employ professional hearing aid technicians that assist buyers with proper fitting of their hearing aids and will also sometimes be dispatched to homes for those with limited mobility. The Japan Hearing Instrument Dispensers Association (JHIDA) has requested that the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare impose legislation requiring online distributors to provide similar service to their customers. However, member companies of the JHIDA supply their products to these online companies and for a member to discontinue sales with these companies would open the door for rival companies to take their market share.
Customer service is extremely important in Japan, especially when dealing with technology and the elderly. People tend to shy away from certain purchases because of a lack of technical support, etc. to help them through the process and transition. One thing to keep in mind for foreign manufacturers of hearing aids: No matter how superior your product is on the technical side, Japanese manufacturers place a lot of importance on after sales service which helps generate a lot of positive word of mouth for their brands especially amongst close-knit aging communities.