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26 October 2020

NHS vs private hearing aid providers

Trying to decide whether to buy hearing aids privately or get them from the NHS? Real-life customers reveal the pros and cons.
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WhichEditorial team

Most people get their hearing aids from the NHS. But with a growing number of hearing aid specialists on our high streets, should you choose to go private?

The key question is whether there is a significant difference. How do the two types of service compare in terms of customer satisfaction? To find out, we surveyed Which? members who have recently got a hearing aid via the NHS or bought hearing aids from a private provider. We grilled them on how things had gone from start to finish, and asked them to rate their experience. 

NHS hearing aids vs private providers

Only logged-in Which? members can view our results in the table below, and also which high street hearing aid providers are best and worst and how much hearing aids cost. If you're not already a member, you can get instant access by joining Which? today.

NHS hearing aids vs privately bought hearing aids
  NHS Private sector
Waiting times
Cleanliness of hearing test facilities
Comfort of hearing test facilities
Level of privacy
Professionalism and knowledge of staff
Dealing with questions or concerns
Clarity of written and verbal information provided
Thoroughness of examination/ testing
Overall customer service
Range of hearing aids offered to me
Appearance of the hearing aids
Comfort of the hearing aids
Extent to which the hearing aid/s suited you
Replacing lost or damaged aids
Dealing with repairs
Ease of booking follow-up appointments
Continuity of care (e.g. seeing the same audiologist)
Follow-up service
Overall price    N/A
Value for money    N/A
Table notes: Scores and ratings are based on the results of an online survey conducted in April 2018 of 3,183 Which? members who had obtained a hearing aid within the previous five years, either via the NHS (and paid for by the NHS) or from a hearing aid retailer (and paid for by the customer). The percentages represent the proportion of people who rated the service as either 'excellent' or 'good'.

Sample sizes: NHS (1753), private sector (1,309)

To find out who are the best and worst private hearing aid retailers, with customer service ratings for Amplifon, Boots, Hidden Hearing, Specsavers Hearcare, Scrivens and independent stores, see private hearing aid providers

How to decide whether to go private or via the NHS

If you're considering going private, ask yourself these key questions:

  • Are you prepared to pay ongoing costs, from replacement hearing aids to batteries and wax-traps?
  • Have you factored in the cost of replacing hearing aids every three to five years?
  • How important is it that you have appointments quickly?
  • Do you want to see the same audiologist each time?
  • Do you want to be able to choose the type and style of hearing aid you get, and are you hoping for discreet or invisible hearing aids?

To understand more about the pros and cons of each option, explore our guides to NHS hearing aids and privately bought hearing aids.