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 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. In our 2020 survey of 1,572 Which? members and other adults, they rated their experience of getting hearing aids under the AQP scheme as well as
Here are some of the pros and cons of buying a hearing aid privately instead of getting one through the NHS:
You're likely to get your hearing aid more quickly by buying privately, but NHS services also have local targets set to ensure you get your assessment and hearing aids as quickly as possible.
Don’t assume that you'll get a better-quality brand of hearing aid if you buy privately, as the NHS buys from the same manufacturers.
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.
The online hearing-aids market is growing, and you may feel tempted by the lower prices you find on the internet.
There's no right or wrong answer to whether you should buy online, but you need to know what the differences are to help you decide if it's right for you.
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, so might ask you to return faulty hearing aids by post rather than you seeing an audiologist.