NHS Hearing Aids

You can get a free hearing aid on the NHS rather than buying one privately from a retailer. This option is available to anyone who receives a referral from their GP.

How do you receive free hearing aids on the NHS?

Anyone that is eligible to care on the NHS can receive free hearing aids. You first need to make an appointment with your GP who will discuss your hearing concerns, check your ears for any medical problems or wax build-up and will ask you questions related to your hearing.

If they detect a need for a hearing aid, your GP will refer you to a hearing specialist, who will fit and supply you with a free digital hearing aid and give you all the relevant advice you need.

The hearing specialist that you go to see following your referral could be your local NHS service, which may operate at the local hospital itself or a clinic location. It could also be a high street hearing aid chain such as Scrivens, Specsavers, Amplifon or Boots.

During this appointment, the hearing specialist will give you a hearing test, ask you some background questions, discuss your results with you and finally will help you select your digital hearing aids. For more information on hearing aids available, read our types of hearing aids page.

NHS hearing aids versus private hearing aids

We have collated information on the advantages and disadvantages of getting hearing aids on the NHS versus privately. This has been gathered from customer opinion surveys carried out by Which?

Hearing aid provider Pros Cons
  • NHS hearing aids are free
  • You are entitled to free follow-up care, repairs and batteries
  • Many hospitals and providers of NHS hearing aids offer drop-in clinics for aftercare and in some cases, home visits
  • The NHS now provides good quality digital hearing aids as standard
  • There is less choice with the type of hearing aid you will be offered. Most likely to be a behind-the-ear model with earmould, or open-fit
  • You may be charged if you lose your hearing aid
  • There can be a long wait to be seen at local hospitals and drop-in centres for aftercare and repair appointments
  • There may be quite a wait between your GP referral and receiving treatment
Private retailer
  • Access to appointments is easy and convenient
  • There is a lot of choice in brand and type including discreet and invisible hearing aids
  • Some retailers offer home visits
  • You will have more time with the audiologist to talk to them about your options
  • You may have to cover other costs like replacement batteries and replacing the hearing aid at the end of its lifespan
  • An audiologist at a shop may have less ability/knowledge when it comes to complex hearing-related issues

Getting a hearing aid on the NHS offers financial benefits and gives you access to a hearing specialist free of charge. Going private can be costly with not only the hearing aid cost but also the replacement batteries, repairs and maintenance.

However, going private gives you quicker access to an appointment and a wider selection of hearing aid solutions to choose from including invisible hearing aids. The waiting time for an NHS hearing aid is much longer which may not be suitable for those that require a solution urgently. Have a look at our hearing aid prices page for more information.

Could you benefit from a Hearing Aid? Click your age below to find out!

Can you get free hearing aids but use a private retailer?

The Any Qualified Provider (AQP) scheme enables you to get your hearing aids from a private company but still paid for by the NHS. These retailers will have undergone the process of accreditation by the NHS.

nhs hearing aids

Private hearing aid retailers like Boots or Specsavers are part of this programme and can provide you with a hearing test, two NHS digital hearing aids and full aftercare.

There are certain conditions which have to be met to qualify for the AQP scheme, however: you must have suspected age-related hearing loss with no other complications and in some cases you need to be 55 or older. The scheme is also only available in some areas.

Your GP will be able to advise you on whether you could have access to the AQP scheme.