According to the World Health Organization, approximately 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss. That’s 5% of the world’s population. Evidence suggests that there is an 83% gap in hearing aid need and use, meaning only 17% of the individuals who could benefit from a hearing aid actually use one.
If we narrow our focus to developing countries, the situation becomes even more dire. It’s also here that the economic impact of hearing loss is most keenly felt. In developing countries, children with hearing loss and deafness rarely receive any schooling. Adults with hearing loss have a much higher rate of unemployment. And among those who are employed, those with hearing loss are more likely to be in the lower grades of employment (WHO).
Clearly, we need to focus on addressing hearing loss in the developing world. However, it simply isn’t feasible to target all developing countries at once. At Audientes, we’ve chosen to focus on India from the outset. Yet, why India? For a number of reasons.
Addressing a clear need
Consider how hearing loss impacts the population in the Delhi area of India. A 2018 study of Delhi residents showed the following:
- 67% of those 60 and older had hearing loss
- 7% of those between the ages of 40 to 59 had hearing loss
- Hearing loss was more prevalent in rural areas
On a country level, the numbers are even more staggering.
- Of the 1.3 billion people in India, an estimated 7% have hearing loss.
- However, less than 0.5% have addressed that hearing loss.
- Of those who have addressed their hearing loss, only 10% wear two hearing aids.
- There is only one audiologist for every 500,000 people
A wide range of socio-economic factors contribute to the current situation. India has no public health insurance plan. Many simply cannot afford hearing care or hearing aids without a public or private reimbursement scheme. This also explains why those who have purchased a hearing aid only purchase one. That’s the limit of what they can afford.
However, this also highlights the impact a high-quality, affordable hearing aid could have on the market. For example, our binaural hearing device will enable people to address hearing loss in both ears at no extra cost. And there are other indications that the current economic, political and business environment is right for a new mid-market entrant.
 The study “An Epidemiological Study on Burden of Hearing Loss and Its Associated Factors in Delhi, India” was published in Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology in 2018
Growing consumer buying power
India is one of the fastest growing markets in the world and is now home to the 2nd largest market for new, consuming-class households. Its middle class, in particular, is expanding, and with that expansion comes an increasing awareness of health literacy. They are also seeing an increase in demand for mid-range products. There’s also a growing tendency amongst the middle class to address hearing loss earlier in life, and a willingness to embrace innovative technological solutions.
Favorable diplomatic climate
In 2019, the Danish Academy of Technical Sciences, published a report about the economic and technological opportunities in India. The report highlighted how the current diplomatic relationship between Denmark and India makes this an opportune time to increase collaboration and partnerships between the two countries. As Freddy Svane, Denmark’s Ambassador to India states in his foreword to the report, “Denmark – and Danish businesses, research and innovation hubs – fit perfectly with Indian ambitions.” This is particularly true within the areas of science and technology which, as the report highlights, are central to India’s ambitious growth plans.
Increased focus on innovation and life sciences
The report also highlights how India has become an incubation center for “unicorns” – tech start-ups with a valuation of over USD 1 billion. They have 31 such companies today, which is the result of India’s concentrated effort to foster an innovative, entrepreneurial culture in the country’s largest cities. Many of these start-ups are within the life science and biotech industries, and looking to collaborate with Western companies to accelerate innovation.
Sustainable Development Goals high on the agenda
India has also emerged as the focal point for the world’s sustainability goals. “We cannot solve the world’s energy or climate crisis without India,” Freddy Svane comments. “This is also true when it comes to access … to basic health services.” Which brings us to our hearing aid. “With our unique, self-fitting technology, users can perform their own hearing test, define hearing profiles for each ear and fine-tune them as necessary. This will help millions of hearing-impaired people in India to learn, work and interact with the world around them, in a way that they can’t today, due to their hearing loss,” says Steen Thygesen, CEO at Audientes. “We’re using the latest technology to overcome the social, economic and geographic barriers preventing people from having access to hearing services.”
The time is right
“India is a country filled with tremendous opportunities and challenges,” comments Steen Thygesen. “When it comes to affordable, high-quality hearing aids, it’s clearly an underserved market with a vast potential. And the country’s openness for technological and life science collaboration make it an ideal place for us to establish local partnerships and develop a robust sales network. Given the current collaboration-friendly climate, there really isn’t a better time for us to bring our hearing aid to the Indian market.”