NHS Hearing Aids

Learn about the types of hearing aids available on the NHS.

Considering NHS hearing aids?

If you are considering getting a hearing aid for free through the NHS, you might be curious about the types of devices available and the reasons behind their selection.

In this article, I will explore the world of NHS hearing aids, explain the choices they make in terms of devices, and discuss the alternatives available through the private sector.

How can you access free hearing aids on the NHS?

If you’re concerned about your hearing, your GP can refer you to an NHS audiology service, usually within a hospital department. The hearing tests and any treatments you need, including hearing aids, are then free through the NHS.

Some non-NHS organisations, like Specsavers, provide hearing aids through a scheme called AQP (any qualified provider). This allows you to access NHS hearing aids without visiting a hospital and instead opt for a local high street practice. The hearing aids provided through this scheme will be similar to those available in hospitals.

What types of hearing aids does the NHS provide?

Hearing aids available on the NHS are typically behind-the-ear (BTE) devices with either a thin tube for mild to moderate hearing loss or a tube with a mould for more severe hearing losses. The device is likely to be manufactured by Danalogic (ReSound), Oticon, or Phonak.

In some cases, the NHS may offer in-the-ear devices or super-power options for patients with specific needs, such as deformed ears or severe to profound hearing losses.

The NHS can also provide more specialist devices, like bone-anchored hearing aids and support for cochlear implants, where necessary.

Why does the NHS offer BTE hearing aids?

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids with tubes are chosen by the NHS for their adaptability, affordability, and ease of repair. The NHS buys hearing aids in bulk, which means they need devices that can fit the majority of their patients. BTE hearing aids can be fitted to almost any type of hearing loss, as they can be adapted to fit different types of earpieces. Popular custom devices available through the private sector, like in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids, aren’t an option due to their higher cost and individualised nature.

Whilst receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) devices (which are the most common solution from private providers) can also fit most hearing losses, they can be more expensive to buy and maintain. Thin tubes on BTE hearing aids are more cost-effective and easier to replace, as they contain no electronics, hence why they are more widely used by NHS departments.

Many NHS hearing aids will still be fitted with ear moulds. These are very easy to clean and maintain, although you will need to ensure you are keeping the tubes free of moisture.

Learn more about the range of different hearing aid styles available through the NHS and private sector.

Our conclusions on NHS vs. private hearing aids

Hearing aids available on the NHS are high quality, reliable devices from top manufacturers, though you will be limited to the manufacturer used by your specific NHS trust. These devices are typically behind-the-ear hearing aids with moulds or thin tubes, due to their affordability and adaptability.

If you’re looking for more personalised solutions, such as receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids or in-the-ear devices, you can choose to visit a private hearing care provider. Whilst you will need to pay for these devices, private providers offer quicker access to the full range of styles and the latest technology on the market.

Please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/hearing-aids-and-implants for further information about NHS hearing aid services.

Article by Adam Bostock

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