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Hearing and eye tests

If you’re experiencing problems with your vision or hearing, speak to your GP for tests, which are free on the NHS for those over 60 years of age.
4 min read
In this article
Eye tests for older people  Vision aids How to register as partially blind
Hearing problems How the choose the best hearing aid Other products to help hearing problems 

Eye tests for older people 

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

If you’re experiencing problems with your vision or you’re concerned that you can’t see as well as you used to, visit 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.

If you are aged over 60, you’re entitled to a free NHS sight test. Check with your optician in advance to find out if they provide free NHS tests.

You can read about the best places to have an eye test in the Which? reviews comparing a range of opticians. The guide also offers advice on how to choose the right prescription glasses, talking you through the different types of lenses, coatings and expected cost.

If you have a mobility problem or you use a wheelchair, check that the optician’s building has suitable access. Some opticians will offer a home visit for people who can’t go to the clinic. If your optician doesn't do home visits, NHS England can provide information about opticians in your area who are able to do home visits.

Call NHS England:

0300 311 22 33

or email england.contactus@nhs.net


Vision aids

Changing eyesight is more common in older people but there are many different aids available to help ensure that your quality of life isn’t diminished.


Glasses and magnifiers can help you 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 those 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.


Go to the RNIB online shop for more information.


RNIB Helpline

If you need further help, call the RNIB helpline:

0303 123 9999

or email helpline.mailbox@rnib.org.uk

How to register as partially blind

When you’re referred to an eye specialist (or ophthalmologist) they will be able to advise if it’s necessary for you 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 local social services team, who will be able to advise on the support available locally. They will also ask if you would like to be registered as partially sighted. Being registered means you will be included on a confidential register of people who are sight impaired, held by your local social services.  


Being on the register will allow you to access a number of concessions, including free public transport and tax allowances. You can find more information about registering your sight loss and the benefits involved on the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) website. 

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Hearing problems

Many people begin to experience ear problems as they get older and, sometimes, this begins to hinder their quality of life. If you’re concerned about your hearing, it’s best to seek help. Hearing tests are free on the NHS and are painless. 

If you think you may be experiencing hearing problems but you aren’t sure, there are some signs you can ask someone to help you look out for.

  • Do they notice that you listen to the radio at an unusually high volume? 
  • Do you find that you’re 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 make an appointment with your GP. To get a free NHS hearing test, you have to be referred by your GP. You may wish to ask a family member or friend to accompany you to a GP appointment if you feel anxious about it.

Read more about what you can expect from a hearing test.

You may have to wait a long time for a free NHS appointment. If this feels too long, you might prefer to look into buying hearing aids privately.

How the choose the best hearing aid

There are now many different types of hearing aid to choose from, such as behind-the-ear (BTE), receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) and invisible devices. Which? has rounded up the pros and cons of the most common varieties of hearing aid so you can find the best one for your needs.

To find out which are the best and worst hearing aid providers, Which? surveyed over 3,000 hearing aid users about their experiences – from which places offer the best hearing tests and product choice, to those that offer the best value for money.

Other products to help hearing problems 

Hearing aids aren’t the only devices that can make life with a hearing problem easier. You can also find other helpful gadgets such as:

  • Alerting devices: vibrating alarm clocks, watches, smoke alarms and telephone ring indicators.
  • TV and assistive listening devices: direct input and inductive devices plug into a headphone socket to help you hear the TV or radio more clearly. 
  • Tinnitus relief: distraction sound machines for masking ringing, clicking or hissing in the ears.

Charity Action on Hearing Loss has partnered with Connevans who sell a range of products for people with hearing loss and tinnitus. Visit the online shop to see the range of products available for hearing problems. 

Further reading

Free prescriptions

People over the age of 60 are eligible for free prescriptions. Read about prescription payment and collection options.

First aid kit

Having a well-stocked first aid kit is important in any home, but if you’re caring for an elderly family member, ...

Managing medication

Read about correctly storing medication and how using a pill dispenser can help you take medication as prescribed.

Last updated: 19 Aug 2020