The last two years have seen an ongoing crisis which is often discussed, but little understood. The 2020-21 global chip shortage has seen the demand for integrated circuits (semiconductor chips) far outstrip the supply. Over 169 industries have been affected, and this is no less true of the hearing aid and accessories industry.
The reasons for the shortage are multifaceted, and stem from a confluence of different factors. Among these, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the major factor as global lockdowns and other restrictions have meant that chip production facilities have been shut down, which in turn has lead to an overall depletion of stock. Demand has also increased as more and more people have been forced to stay home, and therefore pursue electronic devices as a means to work or for entertainment.
Meanwhile, the trade war that started in 2020 has begun to have ramifications for the rest of the globe, as the US placed restrictions on Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), China’s largest chip producer, which in turn has made things more difficult to any company that has ties with the United States. Alternatives such as Samsung (based in South Korea) and the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (TSMC) have already been running at full capacity, meaning that searching for options is difficult.
The latter, TSMC, has also suffered from a considerable drought period in wider Taiwan: chip manufacturers use thousands of tons of ultra-pure water to clean their factories, and, since the drought, TSMC have been unable to use their previous staggering amount (63,000 tons per day). Considering that they supply more than 50% of the global market, this has made matters extremely difficult. Disasters have struck elsewhere, too, with Japan’s Renesas Electronics (~30% of the global market for microcontroller units) caught fire in March of 2021.
What does this mean for hearing aid wearers?
Like practically every other industry reliant on electronics, the manufacturers of hearing aids and hearing aid accessories are facing a difficult time. However, changes are being made to legislation in order to address the shortage. The US are currently reviewing options to strengthen the semiconductor supply chain, while European leaders are attempting to introduce a ‘European Chips Act’ that would help bolster the flagging supplies.
In the short term, the best advice is not to panic: we are still on hand for all of your hearing aid accessory needs. Thankfully, our stock has not suffered too much, so feel free to browse away!