Hearing aids can cost anything from £500 to £7,000-plus, but whatever you pay it can be hard to know exactly what you’re getting, and aftercare is a key consideration you’ll need to factor in.
What you’re buying is much more than just the hearing aids themselves. It includes an ongoing relationship with the company you buy from and how good this is makes a big difference to getting the best from your hearing aid.
Retailers aren’t always transparent about what they charge and it can be hard to find out what exactly you’re getting for your money.
Our tips, based on our exclusive hearing aid retailer and pricing research, cut through the confusion to explain how to get the right hearing aids for the best price.
Best and worst hearing aid retailers – skip straight to our unique brand ratings, based on the experiences of more than 1,500 hearing aid customers
1. It’s not all about the hearing aids
The price of the hearing aids themselves is often bundled together with the service you receive – for example, what you can expect in terms of seeing the same audiologist and when they’re available.
This can make it difficult to compare prices, as you need to be clear on the detail of what’s included.
The price you’re quoted may also include important maintenance items such as replacement batteries, wax traps and repairs.
You need to know this as these ongoing costs can really add up. So a cheap initial cost may turn out to be much pricier in the long run if these extras aren’t covered.
The bundle also includes terms and conditions, such as how long your trial period is, and what your guarantee and warranty cover is.
See our guide to buying hearing aids.
2. You need to shop around
A lack of transparency in this market means it’s hard to compare prices, and prices can differ dramatically for exactly the same products.
For example, we’ve spotted the same hearing aid models costing between £2,695 and £3,795 for a pair at different retailers: that’s a 29% difference in price.
Of course, a good assessment for hearing aids is also key, but that doesn’t mean companies can’t publish their prices in an open and transparent way (some do this, but others don’t).
If a retailer doesn’t publish prices for hearing aids without assessing you first, ask yourself if you’re happy to proceed.
We’ve gathered data on prices at different retailers for particular brands and models, so you can know what to expect and whether the price you’re offered is fair. See our guide to hearing aid prices.
3. Who you buy your hearing aid from is key
This is actually more important than what brand you buy.
You can have the fanciest models around, but it won’t mean anything if they aren’t fitted and fine-tuned properly to work for you.
How well the retailer fits your hearing aid, and how well they support you in terms of aftercare, really is key.
Remember, this is likely to be an ongoing relationship for a good few years, so you’ll want to select your retailer carefully.
4. Watch out for hearing aid jargon
Different manufacturers have different names for the same features.
Don’t be baffled by tech-speak: one person’s ‘adaptive microphone’ is another’s ‘bi-aural multiband adaptive directionality’, or ‘comfort for speech in noise’ .
Ask lots of questions to make sure you understand features and – most crucially – what role they play in your individual hearing.
This is so you know why (or if) you need to pay more for fancier features, and how the model you’re being recommended compares with a different model that you’ve also been assessed for.
Hearing aid features – what they do, and what they’re called by different brands
5. NHS and private retailers use the same brands
In our hearing aid survey, two thirds of those who chose to buy privately did so to buy a better-quality hearing aid than what was offered on the NHS. But the NHS buys and prescribes the same brands you’ll get if you go privately.
The most popular brand bought privately by our 2020 survey respondents was Phonak, and this was also the most popular brand for those who got theirs from the NHS.
The NHS effectively buys ‘last year’s models’ from companies such as Phonak and Starkey, and it tends to buy mid-range – although the choice of hearing aids will depend on your individual hearing loss.
So unless you’re keen on a specific top-end feature, you won’t necessarily be missing out, although you may have to wait a bit longer.
NHS versus private hearing aid companies – find out how owners rated both to decide what’s best for you.