Hearing aids can make a real difference in the quality of life for hard of hearing people, but choosing whether to get a hearing aid through the NHS or privately, is a difficult decision. This segment sets out to provide you with relevant information to help make your decision.
How do I get a hearing aid through the NHS?
You will first need to have a hearing test to find whether you have hearing loss, which is free. If it is found you do have hearing loss, and that a hearing aid will benefit your condition, then you will be prescribed one. A cast will then be taken of your ear, and at your next appointment, the hearing aid will be fixed. A check-up appointment will be allocated to make sure everything is fine and to make any necessary alterations.
What do I pay?
Hearing aids are free of charge on the NHS. This includes the hearing aid, ear moulds, maintenance, and any battery changes. Hearing aids usually last a standard 5 years, when a new one will be provided, although there is a chance you may be asked to pay toward the cost. The hearing aid remains the property of the NHS and is given to you on loan. If it is believed any damage is incurred because of mishandling you may have to compensate the NHS.
In some regions, waiting times can be months. Due to the recent change to digital hearing aids, this has worsened, as many patients with analogue aids wish to change. To make things better there are initiatives in place, including the PPP (Public-Private Partnership) and Hearing Direct.
PPP (Public-Private Partnership) – A nationwide initiative to reduce waiting times by increasing personnel of the NHS hearing aid service. They are trained in NHS procedures, and if functioning within your area, you can choose between going to the audiology clinic, or the PPP. The NHS will remain responsible for the hearing aid.
Hearing Direct – A telephone check-up service to make sure everything is going well after fitting the hearing aid. This also includes a helpline.
Types of hearing aids available
BTE (Behind-the-Ear) – A hearing aid is worn behind the outer ear, and connected to an apparatus inside the ear to deliver sound. An amplifier is larger than with smaller hearing aids, making it better at increasing sound.
BW (Body-worn) – A hearing aid consists of earphones through which sound is delivered to the ear and a small box that can be clipped onto your clothes.
Bone Conduction Hearing Aids – Similar to the body-worn apparatus this type of hearing aid is for those who have conductive hearing loss. Sound is collected through a microphone and then transferred to the hearing aid held against the mastoid bone at the rear of the ear, which then vibrates.
Digital Hearing Aids
The NHS has modernized to provide digital hearing aids, though analogue aids are still available. Digital aids can be tuned to suit your particular form of hearing loss, and are able to block out any background noise. There are various sound settings, making it possible to modify the incoming sound for different situations.
How do I get a hearing aid privately?
Even if you want to get a hearing aid privately you can still have a free hearing test through the NHS. It is recommended you ask your doctor for a list of respected private providers of hearing aids, and that you check they are registered with the Hearing Aid Council. The NHS will not be responsible for any costs.
Why go private?
There is more choice of hearing aids, which can mean you are able to get a hearing aid better suited to your form of hearing loss. There are also smaller and more convenient models available that can fit inside your ear. It usually takes one week to have your first appointment, and then a further two weeks to have your hearing aid fitted.
Cost when going private
A hearing aid purchased through the private sector will usually cost between £300 and £2,500, with digital hearing aids being more expensive than analogue aids. You may be able to cover the cost through your medical insurance and will have to pay for any maintenance and battery changes when the guarantee runs out. It is recommended you ensure your hearing aid against damage, robbery and loss.
Buying hearing aids overseas can initially seem cheaper, but any future alterations or maintenance can easily bump up the price. Before considering buying abroad you should check what the cost covers and what help will be on hand when you return home.