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If your relative is experiencing problems with their vision or hearing, they should speak to their GP for an eye or hearing test, which are free on the NHS for those over 60.

If vision or hearing problems are confirmed, you can help your relative take the next steps, including registering as partially sighted or having hearing aids fitted.

This page contains information on:

1. Eye tests for older people
2. Vision aids
3. How to register as partially blind
4. Hearing problems

Eye tests for older people

Our vision changes as we grow older, so it’s important to ensure that your relative has regular eye checks, especially if there is a history of eye problems (glaucoma, for example) in your family.

If your relative is experiencing problems with their vision or you are simply concerned that they can’t see as well as they used to, you should take them to an optician or a GP for an eye test and to get further advice. It’s recommended that those over the age of 70 have an eye test every year – a service available for free from the age of 60 on the NHS. You can also read about the best places to have an eye test in the Which? product reviews for shopping, grooming and wellbeing.

If your relative has a mobility problem or is using a wheelchair, check that the optician’s building has suitable access. Some opticians will offer a home visit for people who cannot go to the clinic.

Vision aids

Changing eyesight is more common in older people but there are many different aids available to help ensure that your relative’s quality of life is not diminished. For example, glasses and magnifiers can help them continue to enjoy activities such as reading and writing.

There are also numerous lighting options that can improve general visibility around the home, which is particularly important in key rooms such as the kitchen or bathroom.

For individuals with significant sight loss, everyday gadgets with built-in audio features are available, including talking clocks, watches and calendars.

For the kitchen, you can also purchase microwaves and weighing scales that include audio features.  

How to register as partially blind

When your relative is referred to an eye specialist (or ophthalmologist) they will be able to advise if it’s necessary for your relative to be certified as sight impaired and, if so, to what degree. They will also complete the certificate confirming the result of the examination. 

This information will then be passed to your relative’s local social services team, who will be able to advise on the support available locally. They will also ask your relative if he or she would like to be registered as partially sighted. Being registered means you will be included on a confidential register, held by your local social services, of people who are sight impaired, held by your local social services.  

This will allow your relative access to a number of concessions, including free public transport and tax allowances. You can find more information about the registration process and the benefits involved on the RNIB website

Hearing problems

Many people begin to experience hearing problems as they get older and, sometimes, this begins to hinder their quality of life. If you are concerned about your relative’s hearing, you should encourage him or her to seek help. Hearing tests are free on the NHS and are painless. You may wish to suggest accompanying your relative to a GP appointment if they are reluctant or anxious.

If you think your relative may be experiencing hearing problems but you aren’t sure, there are some signs you should look out for. 

  • Does your relative listen to the radio at an unusually high volume? 
  • Do you find that you are often repeating yourself during everyday conversations?
  • Are you speaking louder than you normally need to? 

If the answers to these questions are yes, it may be time to suggest an appointment with their GP.

Read more about hearing aid provides, hearing loss and NHS and private hearing aids in Which? product reviews for staying independent at home.

More information

  • Assistive technology for older people: read about the many electronic products and systems that use technology to promote health and wellbeing in the home, from telecare systems to personal alarms and mobile phones.
  • Concern about elderly drivers and driving: it can be difficult to have a conversation with your relative if you’re concerned about their driving. Read our guide for help and advice.
  • Dealing with a fall: our guide contains information on what steps to take if your relative has experienced a fall.

Page last reviewed: November 2016
Next review due: May 2018