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U.S. hearing aid sales gain 6 percent in June, led by veterans: data

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[July 18, 2014]  COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The U.S. hearing aid market grew 6 percent year-on-year in June, driven by an increase in sales to Veterans Affairs (VA), a government program for military veterans, data from Bernstein Research showed on Friday.

U.S. sales can make a significant contribution to the results of several European companies. Military veterans account for about 20 percent of all hearing aid units dispensed in the United States.

Hearing aid sales to the VA rose 12 percent in June from June 2013, up from a year-on-year increase of 4 percent in May, the data showed.

Switzerland's Sonova and Danish companies William Demant and GN Resound, a unit of GN Store Nord, each generate about 35 to 45 percent of their revenues from North America, with most of that coming from the United States.

Three Danish firms - William Demant, GN Store Nord and unlisted firm Widex A/S - together supply about half of the world's hearing aids.

Sonova has the biggest VA share at around 55 percent, while GN Store Nord and William Demant have around 8 percent each.

At the start of 2014, hearing aid sales were hit hard by severe winter weather, when consumer spending in general fell.

Sales contracted 4 percent in January but bounced back to grow in the last five months "mainly on the back of strong performance in the Veterans Administration program", Bernstein Research analyst Lisa Clive wrote in a note.

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Growth in the U.S. private market, where 2.4 million hearing aid units were sold last year, was 4 percent in June, the data showed.

According to data from the Hearing Industries Association released earlier this week, U.S. hearing aid sales increased by 2.9 percent in the first half of 2014.

(Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; editing by Jane Baird)

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