NHS Hearing Aids

NHS sign

You can tell how proud a country is of a piece of their culture based on how heavily it features in their Olympic opening ceremony. So when the UK dedicated a large segment of the London 2012 opening ceremony to the NHS, it told us quite a lot.

The NHS is definitely a huge benefit for any citizen of the UK, but looking at the specifics, how well does the NHS help someone in need of hearing aids? Let’s look into the NHS, and investigate their hearing aid rules and regulations.

If you’d rather go private and control every step of your journey to hearing recovery, then we’re here to help with that too! If you fill out our quick online form, you’ll be directed to a private hearing specialist who can help you with any steps in the process.

Can you get invisible hearing aids on the NHS?

Invisible hearing aids are known as “IIC” hearing aids, or “invisible-in-the-canal” hearing aids. As you can tell from the name, these sit inside the ear canal, out of sight, effectively “invisible” to the naked eye.

You can see (or can’t see) how these would be desirable in the hearing aid world. Some people worry about the stigma around hearing aids – the idea that wearing one makes you look old – so being able to wear one without it being seen would be quite a boon.

ITE hearing aid

Unfortunately, however, you won’t be able to get an invisible hearing aid through the NHS. The models offered through the NHS are typically behind-the-ear (BTE) – in other words, what you would normally picture when thinking of a hearing aid. On special occasions, you may be offered a receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aid, but these look very similar to BTEs.

If you insist on having an invisible hearing aid, you’ll need to go private.

NHS hearing aid batteries

Humans still haven’t figured out how to integrate microscopic nuclear power reactors into hearing aids, which unfortunately means they can’t run indefinitely – they’re going to need some batteries.

But if you’re using a couple of batteries every week for the rest of your life, you can see how this cost may add up over time. Since the hearing aid was covered by the NHS, could the batteries be covered too?

Rechargeable hearing aid
Hearing aid surrounded by lots of batteries

This was a lot of build-up for a simple answer – yes, batteries for your NHS hearing aid are indeed free. You’ll be able to collect them from your GP – most commonly in sizes 13, 675, and 312.

Benefits of NHS hearing aids

So why would you opt for NHS hearing aids over a private clinic? Well, the most obvious reason is financial. Having the opportunity to restore your hearing ability without having to spend four figures is a big plus.

They’re also not cheaply made. When you see a free product, the first inclination is to think that it’s low quality – anything but premium. But NHS hearing aids are up to a solid standard, and while they don’t have the biggest range of selectable hearing aids, you’ll still have some choice in regard to what you’ll be getting.

Benefits of private hearing aids

One of the biggest issues with NHS hearing aids is that they’re only prescribed to people with high levels of hearing loss, such as severe or profound hearing loss. That means if you’re suffering from mild or moderate hearing loss (conditions that should still be addressed), you might not be able to get appropriate hearing aids through the NHS.

Hand in hand with this is the fact that you can get any hearing aid you want from a private supplier. NHS hearing aids are somewhat basic – like we mentioned, they’re always BTE models – so if you want a custom hearing aid with varied, amazing features, private hearing aids are the way to go.

Hearing aid consultation

The thing is, you don’t have to commit to either of these options. Consultations with either the NHS or a private hearing specialist are free, which means you can get some really comprehensive information about your specific condition and what could be done to alleviate it.

To arrange an NHS consultation, simply see your GP to be directed to the best resource for your hearing loss needs. To have a private consultation, however, you can use our quick form to be directed to a hearing specialist near you, who can tell you more about custom hearing aids and any features that might benefit you.

How long does it take to get a hearing aid through the NHS vs private?

While any NHS appointment comes with some wait times, once you have the consultation, you might be able to collect your hearing aid almost immediately, depending on the kind you were prescribed. However, the lead-up to the acquisition of your hearing aid can take around six weeks after your GP refers you.

Source: NHS England

If you were given a BTE hearing aid, you may be able to walk out with it. But if an RITE hearing aid was more suitable for you, then you’ll need to wait a bit. A silicone mould of your ear canal will need to be made and sent off in order to customize the receiver that will be going into your ear.

The timings in these scenarios are the same in private settings, too, so you won’t have any more or less of a wait in either scenario.


Just like anything with as much depth and gravity as your healthcare, NHS hearing aids are a complicated issue – one that could have an entirely different outcome with one person than it did with another.

If you’re interested in NHS hearing aids, then there are many resources available to help with getting one. If you’re more interested in private hearing aids, however, we’re the best place to be. 

If you fill out our quick online form, you’ll be able to arrange a free consultation with a qualified hearing healthcare professional, where you can receive a hearing test and see if hearing aids are the right move for you.

Written by:

Duncan is an Australian-born American-raised creative writer with a passion for healthy ears. He continues to build upon his audiology qualifications with research and various courses.

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