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The Ultimate Guide to NHS Hearing Aids

NHS hearing aids are an alternative to buying a device from a high street name in the UK.

NHS hearing aids are a popular topic and not many days pass without a customer asking about them. We thought it may be interesting to describe the process that applies when obtaining a hearing aid from the NHS.

How to obtain NHS Hearing Aids

Let us start by saying that 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 should be proud that our National Health Service is still able to offer a free hearing aid to anyone that needs one (although how sustainable this will become remains to be seen). It is, however, an area under scrutiny and it seems likely that a similar approach to that which saw the provision of glasses move into the private sector with a government contribution will be adopted.

The NHS offers a limited selection of free hearing aids with the option of private treatment. However, heading down the private route could set you back anywhere between £500 - £3,500. Alternative solutions to buying hearing exist in the form of ourselves and we supply a range of affordable digital hearing aids to ease your money woes.

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.

Step 2: Referral

If they do not offer a diagnostic service, then they will examine you to determine whether the hearing loss is being caused by a solvable medical condition, as opposed to the far more common age related hearing loss. 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 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 presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) which is the case for about 85% of hearing losses, 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 and shows you how to put it on and remove it and takes 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.

Does the NHS Provide Hearing Aid Batteries?

In addition, the NHS provides free hearing aid batteries as well.

The NHS is able to offer a broad selection of hearing aid batteries. 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 may have to experiment with various brands to find which ones you prefer. For hearing aid batteries, try RayovacPower 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 summarize, obtaining NHS hearing aids requires some degree of patience but the quality of care and the performance of the hearing aids have grown significantly better in the last few years.

As mentioned in this blog, 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.

Further Reading

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:

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.

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Author: Stuart Canterbury

Stuart joined the hearing aid industry just at the start of the digital revolution in the mid 1990s.  He was part of a team that transformed one of the minor manufacturers in to a major player in both production and retail of high technology hearing aids.  This journey included working on public / private programmes to accelerate the uptake of high technology hearing aids across a wide distribution.  This passion for improving the value and access to good quality hearing lead to the foundation of HearingDirect.  After almost a decade and hundreds of thousands of customers we are starting to establish online sales as a practical, cost-effective channel to provide great hearing to all those who need help.

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