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8 December 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.
W
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 pay privately?

The key question is whether there is a significant difference. And does a more recent third option – you go to a private retailer but the NHS pays through 'Any Qualified Provider (AQP)' – offer an opportunity you should take up?

To find out, we surveyed Which? members and other adults who have recently got a hearing aid via the NHS or got 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 see 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
  Private

Private (paid for by NHS - AQP)

NHS (hospital or clinic)

Waiting times M

M

M

Testing environment

M

M

M

Staff

M

M

M

Thorough testing

M

M

M

Product range M

M

M

Hearing aid appearance

M

M

M

Hearing aid comfort

M

M

M

Hearing aid suitability

M

M

M

After-care

M

M

M

Price

M

M

M

Customer score

M

M

M

Table notes: Scores and ratings are based on the results of an online survey conducted in May 2020 of 1,572 Which? members and other members of the public 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) or from a retailer (and paid for by the NHS –sometimes called Any Qualified Provider or AQP). The percentages represent the proportion of people who rated the service as either 'excellent' or 'good'.

Sample sizes: NHS (724), private purchase by customers (624) Any Qualified Provider (220)

To discover 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 paying privately, 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.