When the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced Covid-19 as a worldwide pandemic last March, routine healthcare appointments were avoided to prevent patients from contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Ear, nose, and throat (ENT) services were particularly impacted, since many procedures are elective and most patients are elderly and at risk of suffering from Covid-19 symptoms. ENT clinicians are also at high risk of infection, which further impacted ENT healthcare services.

As such, GlobalData estimates that a reduction in procedure volumes occurred for the implantation of speech aid devices and hearing implants last year. This led to a loss in revenue and the temporary or permanent closure of single-ENT-practice institutions. This closure of ENT healthcare centres will lead to an increased risk of speech and hearing impairment and permanent loss in patients who are in immediate need of treatment.

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Despite the number of new Covid-19 cases rising again in the first quarter of this year, many medical centres are continuing to perform outpatient procedures for elective surgeries. As such, common ENT procedures like cochlear implantation and functional endoscopic sinus surgeries are not expected to be delayed again or cancelled.

While Covid-19 had a negative impact on the ENT devices market last year, GlobalData has identified 245 products currently still in development, with 39.8% of them in the US. The largest device category of pipeline products is that of hearing impairment, with 45% of all products being in this category. As the market for ENT devices continues to recover throughout 2021, GlobalData expects additional research and development (R&D) in this therapeutic space.

As the pandemic continues into a ‘third wave’, ENT specialists are working hard to reduce the backlog of procedures while adhering to safety protocols. GlobalData has recently assessed the impact of Covid-19 on two markets, speech aid devices and hearing implants.

The speech aid devices market suffered revenue losses of 19% last year, as the market largely depends on total laryngectomy surgeries. Deferral of procedures to contain the spread of the virus led to a decline in speech aid devices sales during the first half of last year. As healthcare centres and hospitals resumed procedures in the third quarter of the year, demand for speech aid devices surged. With many procedures rescheduled throughout this year, GlobalData expects that the market will recover losses next year.

The hearing implants market also experienced a downturn in the second and third quarters of last year. with the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases and the cancellation or deferral of elective procedures. Lockdowns and stringent procedure guidelines restricted the supply of hearing implants internationally. As elective surgeries resumed in the second half of the year, however, there was an increased demand for hearing implants, with a corresponding increase in sales.

Since the beginning of the fourth quarter, there has been a steady recovery, such that year-on-year sales were down by only 13.5%. With a constant recovery in the upcoming quarters, GlobalData expects the market to fully recover from previous losses by the end of next year.