NHS hearing aids are available for everyone in the UK with a hearing loss problem where hearing aids are the best treatment. We give detailed advice on the process you need to go through to obtain NHS Hearing Aids as well as advice on batteries and links for further reading.
NHS Hearing Aids
All of us at Hearing Direct are big fans of the NHS and in particular the audiological services it provides. Under ever-growing funding pressure, we are proud that our National Health Service is still able to offer a free hearing aid to anyone that needs one. It is, however, an area under scrutiny. It seems likely that the government will adopt a similar approach to the provision of glasses.
The provision of hearing aids may move into the private sector with a government contribution included. The NHS offers a limited selection of free hearing aids with the option of private treatment. The NHS states that buying privately could set you back anywhere between £500 - £3,500.
Update to NHS Services for Covid-19
Following the stay at home advice issued on the 23rd March 2020, some NHS audiology departments have stopped routine appointments, for example two audiology departments which have published advice are Tayside and Lincolnshire.
If you require replacement hearing aid batteries or a repair you must either:
- make a request by post
- telephone your local audiology department
- or email them
Please note that HearingDirect can only repair their own brand hearing aids, although we are able to supply NHS accessories such as domes, tubes, and filters for NHS Hearing Aids.
5 Steps to Obtaining NHS Hearing Aids
When it comes down to obtaining hearing aids from the NHS, the process is simple and straightforward. For now, the process is broadly as follows:
Step 1: Talk to your GP
The most common route is to make an appointment with your GP. They will run through a screening process to determine the nature of any hearing concerns. Some even offer diagnostic hearing evaluations within their practice although this is rare. Before you go, you can take an online hearing test to assess your level of hearing loss and show your GP your audiogram results.
Step 2: Referral
They will examine you to determine whether the hearing loss is being caused by a solvable medical condition. For instance, the only solution for age related hearing loss is to wear hearing aids, but an ear wax blockage is easy to fix. If they do not offer a diagnostic service, then after this initial screening process, you will will get a referral to your local hospital's audiology department for a diagnostic hearing evaluation.
Step 3: Appointments
The appointment and indeed the entire process falls under governmental targets and almost all NHS hospitals/trusts meet these targets. As a consequence, the 2-year waiting lists have all but disappeared with most patients waiting no longer than a couple of months.
A hearing test administered by the audiologist determines the degree or severity of hearing loss. The audiologist sends beeps at varying volumes and different pitches to the ear through headphones. For an example have a look at our online hearing test and why not try it out.
The results take the form of an audiogram (amongst other test results such as speech in noise). The degree of loss is measured in decibels against a 'norm'. Assuming that the results indicate a hearing loss which cannot be fixed by other means, the audiologist will recommend a hearing aid from the range they have available.
At this point most NHS hearing aids types will not be issued to you (although a growing number of audiology departments do provide some instant fit solutions). They will take an impression of your ear canal to aid the fitting of the hearing aid. Only in very rare circumstances will they offer in the ear devices. You will then make a future appointment to come back and have the hearing aid fitted; this is typically 2 weeks or so later.
Step 4: Hearing Aid Fitting
The hearing aid fitting appointment is where the aid is fitted from a physical and audiological perspective. The audiologist or hearing aid dispenser programs the hearing aid to your hearing test (audiogram) results. They'll show you how to put it on and remove it and will take you through the various aspects of your hearing aid.
An interesting, but little-known fact, is that the NHS only loans you the hearing aid. The hearing aid always remains the property of the hospital or trust that issued it. After this appointment , you will have your NHS hearing aids. You will then make a follow-up appointment (again usually 2 weeks or so later) to determine how you are getting on and whether you need any adjustments.
Step 5: Final Appointment
The audiologist or hearing aid dispenser will make any necessary adjustments to the hearing aid at the follow-up appointment. You can also ask questions about using your hearing aids. At the end of this appointment, you have reached the end of the official process and any subsequent appointments or requirements fall outside of the government targets mentioned earlier.
As a consequence, it can often be difficult to get any immediate help in relation to any problems you may have - mostly a funding and time issue rather than a lack of care.
Even if you have NHS Hearing Aids our audiologists are happy to help. Although we cannot repair them (they still belong to the NHS) we can supply NHS accessories such as filters and tubes which will help them work at their best. Just contact us by telephone, email or on our facebook page.
Does the NHS Provide Hearing Aid Batteries?
The NHS does provide free hearing aid batteries as well, you will need to present your brown book at the audiology department or a doctor's surgery that provides this service. The NHS offers all the appropriate hearing aid batteries for the hearing aids they supply. Likewise, at Hearing Direct, you will also find a wide choice of batteries to fit a variety of makes and models.
Choosing a brand is mostly personal taste and preference and you can experiment with various brands to find which ones you prefer. For hearing aid batteries, try our own HearingDirect brand, Rayovac, Power One or Duracell. We also offer trial packs of batteries which let you test different brands before settling on the right source of power.
Are NHS Hearing Aids Good?
To summarise, obtaining NHS hearing aids requires some degree of patience. The quality of care and the performance of the hearing aids have grown significantly better in the last few years. Generally, the NHS will only provide behind the ear hearing aids unless the problem requires a different solution. In ear or Invisible Hearing aids are not provided and you will need to buy these privately.
As we said, we are big fans of the NHS and the work it does to help people with hearing problems. Hearing Direct was established to provide an additional alternative to the private provision of hearing aids with more affordable prices. We give people a wider range of hearing aids to chose from than the NHS and in a more affordable and convenient way than many private hearing aid providers. We offer affordable digital hearing aids which can be delivered to your door the very next day if required; no waiting, no fuss, and no appointments.
Our blog is home to a number of valuable resources, including more informative posts about NHS hearing aids. Below is a selection of articles which may also interest you:
- NHS Hearing Aid Battery Options
- Types of NHS Hearing Aid
- NHS Hearing Aids vs Private Hearing Aids
- How Long is the wait for Hearing Aids?
- NHS Hearing Aid Cost
About Hearing Direct
We are one of the world's leading hearing aid specialists. HearingDirect offers a wide range of affordable products, as well as information resources to help improve the quality of life for the hard of hearing. We sell:
- Hearing aids,
- Accessories such as earplugs,
- and amplified devices such as super loud alarm clocks and amplified phones.
Author: Joan McKechnie
After qualifying as a Speech-Language Pathologist and Audiologist Joan has spent most of her 20 year career in hearing-care related roles. She has a wealth of experience within the hearing aid and hearing rehabilitation fields and has worked in manufacturing environments with two hearing aid companies helping to develop products and roll out new technologies. Joan has been involved with Hearing Direct since its launch and enjoys the online retail environment which seeks to provide easier access to hearing products and accessories. She is HCPC registered. Read Joan's full bio here.