There’s no such thing as a ‘Free Lunch’; or so the saying goes… But are there such things as free hearing aids? Technically the answer has to be no. That isn’t to say that you can’t obtain a hearing aid without paying for it directly, rather that you pay for it in a different way and the cost is shared across every tax and national insurance payer in the UK. The NHS will provide a hearing aid without direct charge to anyone with an NHS number that is deemed, through appropriate testing, to need one. The hearing aid always remains the property of the Trust that issues it and as such the hearing aid is really lent to the individual on a long term loan rather than given to the recipient. Technically the hearing aid never belongs to the patient and as such, they are not allowed to transfer it to another person either in the form of a gift or by way of payment.
The process of obtaining a hearing aid from the NHS has been covered in several other posts but in summary, the process/access begins with your GP. The GP will screen you initially and then refer you on to the local hospital audiology department for a full hearing evaluation and subsequent fitting. The whole process varies in length from Trust to Trust and GP to GP but the Government targets for all NHS processes apply and therefore 4-6 weeks or so is about average.
On a decidedly different basis, you may be offered a ‘Free Hearing Enhancer’ or ‘TV Aid’ or something with a similar title from some National Chains of hearing aid retailers. These free gifts rarely, if ever, deliver satisfactory results and are purely designed to capture your name and address for future marketing purposes of ‘proper’ hearing aids. Dare I suggest that these models are designed to prompt an unsatisfied outcome to encourage dialogue with the retailer and a subsequent recommendation for a hearing aid at the average £1,100 mark – perhaps I’m just being a little cynical!
In any event, free hearing aids don’t really exist, whether they are of poor quality (offered by retailers) or good quality (offered by the NHS hearing aids) they are ‘paid’ for one way or another. Ultimately, there is no such thing as a free lunch!