From top-notch after-care and excellent customer service to pressure selling and poor product range, our survey has revealed big differences between the best and worst hearing aid companies.
In May 2020, we asked more than 1,500 Which? members and other adult hearing aid owners about their experiences with providers. They told us how satisfied they were with the staff’s knowledge and professionalism, thoroughness of testing, product range and value for money.
We also spoke to Which? members who have recently got a hearing aid via the NHS to see how the service compares to private providers.
Keep reading for more on the best and worst companies, average hearing aid prices and how to wear a face mask with a hearing aid.
See our best and worst hearing aid provider reviews for the full results.
Best and worst hearing aid companies
The best company in our survey got a customer score of 86% and the worst just 69%.
From dealing with queries to professionalism, you can expect excellence (five stars) in the way staff deal with you from a provider with the highest customer score.
You’ll also get first-class after-care. It’s easy to look at the upfront price of hearing aids and under-value the importance of the ongoing relationship, including how problems are dealt with and whether you see the same audiologist.
Customers of the worst company rated it just two stars (poor) for after-care, with an OK (three star) rating for its staff.
We also asked customers about whether they had experienced pressure selling, as we know how important it is that you have time and space to choose the right company and hearing aids for you.
Nearly one in five private hearing-aid customers felt under some pressure to buy from the retailer, and one in seven to select a more expensive option that was recommended, but this varied considerably between providers.
For example, just under a third of customers of one company felt under some pressure to buy, whereas one in 10 did from independents.
Find out which company was crowned the best hearing aid provider for 2020.
Hearing aid prices
The lowest average price paid for a pair of hearing aids was £1,850, with the highest average at £3,145.
But interestingly, our most expensive was also the best-rated on price (including value for money, as well as cost).
The price of your hearing aids is typically bundled together with other services which may include after-care, maintenance and parts such as wax traps, batteries and repairs. Some companies offer free parts for up to four years, while for others you’ll need to pay monthly for this. Lengths of warranties can also last between two and four years.
All of which, makes it harder to compare the true value of what a provider is offering.
We’ve asked manufacturers to name their latest models so we can tell you what you can expect to pay across companies, and we’ve also put side by side what each provider offers – see our guide on hearing aid prices.
NHS vs private hearing aids
For the first time, we’ve compared the NHS (hospital or clinic) to private providers and the scheme whereby the NHS pays for you to go to a private provider such as Specsavers or Scrivens (‘Any Qualified Provider’).
From waiting times to dealing with repairs and the comfort of the hearing aids, we asked Which? members to rate their experiences from start to finish.
See our NHS vs private hearing aid results to find out who fares best, and whether you’ll be more satisfied if you use the AQP scheme or go privately.
But whichever way you go, remember that the NHS buys the same brands as private providers. It’s a myth that the NHS produces its own, inferior hearing aids.
For example, 60% of people who went with the NHS, and 40% of people who went private (and know what brand they have) got Phonak, Oticon or Signia hearing aids.
Hearing aids and face masks
Most face coverings are secured behind the ear, which can be a problem if you wear hearing aids, as it might be fiddly to put on and take off your mask.
The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) told us that the number of lost hearing aids has risen hugely since face covering rules have been in place, because removing coverings unintentionally flicks BTE hearing aids off the ear.
RNID recommends face coverings which tie around your head and don’t touch your ears, to keep your hearing aid or cochlear implant secure.
If you do have a face mask with elastic ear loops, RNID says you can try a mask extender, which links the straps at the back of your head. You can buy these online or make your own.
See our face mask test reviews for the full results and where to buy our top-rated masks.