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How to get the best hearing aid

Should I buy a hearing aid privately?

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Should I buy a hearing aid privately?

Find out the pros and cons of buying a hearing aid privately and how to see past the sales patter - but first, watch our video to discover how to buy the best hearing aid for your needs.

Can I buy hearing aids without involving my GP?

You don’t need a GP referral to buy hearing aids privately, but it’s a good idea to see your doctor first so you can rule out any temporary problems, such as build-up of wax. However, a private audiologist (dispenser) should also be able to spot this. They will also be able to identify whether you need additional support from another specialist, such as an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.

Your GP may also tell you about the Any Qualified Provider scheme, which allows you to get hearing aids from a private company paid for by the NHS, but this is only available in some areas of England. 

If you do decide to get your hearing aids from a shop, our survey of the best hearing aid providers will help you choose where to buy from. 

Pros and cons of buying your hearing aid privately

When we surveyed 1,739 Which? members in September 2016, 37% had bought their hearing aids privately, rather than getting them from the NHS. To see how satisfaction levels differed, see our guide to NHS hearing aids vs buying privately.

Here are some of the pros and cons of buying a hearing aid privately as opposed to getting one through the NHS:

Pros

  • You should be able to book an appointment at your convenience, with little waiting time.
  • More choice of styles, especially if you want discreet or invisible hearing aids.
  • Some retailers offer home visits.
  • You’ll see the audiologist - probably the same person - on follow-up visits (which you’ll need to check are part of your aftercare package).
  • You’re likely to have more time with the audiologist to explore options or problems.

Cons

  • Buying a hearing aid is rarely a one-off cost, as it will need replacing every three to five years - check our guide to hearing aid prices to find out more.
  • You'll also have to pay for repairs and, depending on your package, replaceable items such as batteries and wax traps.
  • An audiologist at a shop may have less ability/knowledge when it comes to complex hearing-related issues.

If you're trying to decide whether to get NHS hearing aids or go privately, check out the pros and cons of NHS vs private hearing aid providers

Will I have more choice of hearing aids if I go private?

Yes, you will have a wider choice of types of hearing aid and models if you buy privately. The NHS doesn’t tend to provide in-the-ear (invisible) hearing aids, for example.

You are likely to get your hearing aid more quickly by buying privately, but NHS services also have local targets set to ensure that you receive your assessment and hearing aids as quickly as possible. 

Don’t assume that you will get a better-quality hearing aid if you buy privately, as the NHS buys from the same manufacturers.

Who sells hearing aids on the high street?

Larger companies include Amplifon, Boots Hearing Care, Hidden Hearing and Specsavers Hearcare. There are also regional chains and independent specialists. 

Some shops are linked to certain manufacturers, so check, as this may limit your choice. Some companies offer home visits if you’re unable to visit their shops. This can be more convenient, but make sure you’re comfortable with someone coming to your home to give you a hearing assessment, and have a family member or friend with you for support if possible.

Should I buy online?

The online hearing aids market is growing, and you may see cheaper web prices for hearing aids and feel tempted.

There is no right or wrong answer in terms of whether you should buy online - some people will benefit from buying online and others won’t - but you need to know what the differences are.

By law, internet companies have to offer you a hearing assessment, so don't buy hearing aids unless you've had a comprehensive one. Certainly don’t buy from an online marketplace or similar.

Exercise caution. Make sure you ask what happens after you’ve got your hearing aids. Some companies won’t offer the level of face-to-face contact and aftercare you’d get on the high street. 

For example, they may not have a physical office and so might ask you to return faulty hearing aids by post, rather than you seeing an audiologist.

Five things to do when choosing a private audiologist 

  1. Check that the audiologist (also known as a dispenser) is registered with the Health and Care Professions Council and has the initials RHAD after their name. You can also look for the initials BSHAA, which means the private audiologist is a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists. Membership at present is voluntary, and to qualify audiologists have more rigorous requirements to meet, including extra professional development.
  2. Check that the audiologist will be easy to contact, as you’ll probably need them for follow-ups, including adjustments or repairs.
  3. Find out when the audiologist will be on duty if you need help. Some are only available on certain days or at certain times, while others run drop-in clinics.
  4. Choose a company recommended by someone you know if you can (but remember that their hearing loss won’t be the same as yours, so their specific hearing aid won’t necessarily be the right one for you). You can check out the best and worst companies, according to Which? members, in our hearing aid providers review.
  5. Visit the Locate and Rate section of the Action on Hearing Loss website to find services in your area. 
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