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4 Mar 2022

Six hearing aid buying tips you need to know

Don't get caught out by dramatically different retailer prices and hidden extras

It can be hard to work out what you should be paying for hearing aids - and easy to miss expensive hidden extras along the way.

For starters, this information isn't always easy to find, as some companies still don't publish their prices upfront.

To make it easier, we've looked into how much the latest hearing aids from the biggest manufacturers - including Oticon, Phonak, Signia and Starkey - cost at major retailers such as Amplifon, Boot Hearingcare and Specsavers.

You can compare costs in our full hearing aid prices compared guide, and before you commit to paying thousands of pounds for your hearing aids, use our expert buying tips below to avoid common buying pitfalls.

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1. Same hearing aids, different price

We've found that there is often a big difference in prices for comparable hearing aids across retailers.

For example, you could pay anything from £2,700 to £5,300 for a pair of the most complex aids with disposable batteries.

It's worth shopping around to get the best price for what you need. The type of hearing aid you get and the level of functionality you need will be determined by factors including your hearing loss and your lifestyle.

To get our prices, we divided all the main hearing aid brands into categories, so you know whether the price you're quoted is reasonable for the type you need.

Find out more about different types in our full hearing aid types explained guide.

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2. Know what's included in the price

Hearing aids are typically sold as part of a bundled price or package, and you'll need to unpick what you're getting for your money.

You can buy the best hearing aids around, but you'll only benefit from them if they're fitted properly, programmed and adjusted on an ongoing basis so they're right for you.

Some differences between retailers and what they include in the price are:

  • length of trial period
  • length of warranty and what it includes
  • whether you'll get free ongoing maintenance items such as batteries, wax traps, receivers (the tubing) and cleaning kits, and services such as wax removal.

You'll also need to checkwhat follow-up appointments you'll be offered, including whether home visits are available if you need them, and whether your appointments will be with the same audiologist.

For example, you should have a follow-up appointment between four and 12 weeks after getting your hearing aids, so you can troubleshoot any teething problems.

3. Watch out for hidden extras

When you're comparing hearing aid prices, you need to consider the ongoing costs (of parts such as batteries and wax guards) as well as the upfront ones, as these can differ considerably.

For example, Specsavers includes disposable batteries for up to four years, Amplifon includes them on selected models, and Scrivens has an Essential Care plan where you pay £2.50 a month to include batteries and other maintenance items.

Potential extra costs to consider include:

  • Disposable batteries - £3 / month (average cost)How long these last will depend on factors including your level of hearing loss and the technology you're using (eg streaming music through your aids).
  • Wax traps - £4.50 / month These cost around £5 a pack and are also needed for rechargeable aids. How often you have to change them depends on how much wax your ears produce and where the hearing aid sits in the ear. Most patients change them between weekly and fortnightly, but this really varies, with some people getting through a pack a week, and manufacturers recommending they're changed at least every two months or so.
  • Domes - £3.50 / month The domes or soft tips that sit in your ear (if you have this type of hearing aid rather than ear moulds) may also need replacing.
  • Drying capsules £1 / month Some of the rechargeable units have a silica gel pellet that dries out the hearing aids overnight - you get two for £5 and each one needs replacing roughly every two to three months.

Other things you may need include drying kits (a small dehumidifying pot with two silica gel pellets) for hearing aids with disposable batteries, cleaning tools, cleaning wipes, and puffers to dry out behind-the-ear hearing aids with ear moulds. Ask about the extras you'll need for your specific aids and so you can get an idea of ongoing costs.

More expensive items you might also need to pay for include:

  • Replacement wires (receivers) - if they break after the warranty runs out (£40-£80 per aid)
  • Ear moulds - they may perish, not fit if you lose weight, or discolour
  • Replacement charging units - for rechargeable aids, cost £100 to £400 but retailers may well offer cheaper prices.

Last but definitely not least, it's important to remember that your hearing aids will need replacing after roughly three to five years.

4. Comparing different offers

Retailers offer different hearing aid 'bundles' or packages. For example, warranties vary between two and four years, which could make quite a big difference if you need repairs or replacement parts (repairs can typically cost between £100 and £200).

This makes it harder to compare costs between providers.

Things you'll want to check include:

  • Trial-period/ money-back guarantee
  • Warranty and what it includes
  • Repairs and replacement aids - what's offered within warranty and when it runs out
  • Follow-up appointments - how often/ who with
  • Maintenance items including batteries, wax traps, replacement wires, cleaning kits

We've put all this info together in our hearing aid prices compared guide.

5. What happens if you lose a hearing aid

Audiologists told us they had reports of a huge rise in lost hearing aids over the pandemic. Turns out pulling a face mask on and off is a sure way to say goodbye to your hearing aids, which could be a pricey error.

The RNID recommends:

  • face coverings which tie around your head and don't touch your ears
  • try to only remove your face covering when you are in a place where your hearing aid can be easily found if it falls out
  • try a mask extender which links the straps at the back of your head. You can buy these, or make your own.

Some hearing aid retailers offer bespoke insurance products to cover loss. Check your retailer's replacement policy and what your home personal possessions policy covers before you buy insurance, as this may cover loss, theft and accidental damage.

Do also check your policy for any exclusions - for example, what would happen if you lost an aid while swimming.

Find out how to buy the best face covering and the best and worst reusable face masks and coverings, or see our advice on clear face masks.

6. Don't discount NHS hearing aids

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 need specific aids with higher-end or bespoke functionality, you won't necessarily be missing out, although you may have to wait a bit longer.

Find out the pros and cons of NHS vs private hearing aid companies to decide what's best for you.