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The challenges of buying hearing aids

Hearing aid

Behind-the-ear hearing aids or invisible ‘in-the-canal’ ones? iPhone-compatible or no frills? £500 or £7,000 per pair? Buying hearing aids comes with a whole host of choices to wade through.

One of those choices is whether to buy them on the high street, to get them from the NHS or – if your area runs the ‘Any Qualified Provider’ scheme – getting the NHS to pay for your high street hearing aids.

And it’s not always easy to know what you’re paying for. Many providers aren’t putting prices on their websites, let alone what the ‘package’ you’re getting includes, making it even harder to compare them.

Quotes from the top

We asked the big four hearing aid high street companies – Amplifon, Boots Hearingcare/ David Ormerod, Hidden hearing and Specsavers – to quote for hearing aids at different levels. We found you can pay anywhere from £500 to £7,000 a pair.

Interestingly, it’s not necessarily true that paying more gets you a better hearing aid. We decided to look in detail at what features you’d get for each level of hearing aid and what you’d pay.  For example, if you spend a lot of time at home with limited social interaction you might be better off with a basic hearing aid without unnecessary features.

This means that the quality of your hearing aid assessment can make the difference between a good and bad hearing aid experience, rather than the actual hearing aids themselves.

Which? member rating

We surveyed Which? members earlier this year, asking them to rate hearing aid high street providers on products and pricing, staff and service, and arrangements and facilities.

While some thought they’d got an excellent service, others felt they’d been encouraged to buy more expensive hearing aids than they thought they needed. You can see how the retailers performed in our hearing aid guide.

It seems a tricky market to navigate – what’s been your experience of buying hearing aids? Do you feel you made all the right choices?

Comments

I’ve been wearing hearing aids for around 6 years now. The first pair were behind the ear models from SpecSavers. I found them very difficult to get used too and a little uncomfortable. The Which? guides are good reading. It does take time to adapt to hearing aids.

My first trial was a bit of a shock: I walked out of SpecSavers into the street and was dive-bombed by a squawking seagull: I had no idea how loud seagulls can scream! It does take several weeks, possibly months, to get used to hearing how everything is so noisy. I found them uncomfortable, especially when eating, which sort of tickled my ear canals until it started to hurt.

They lasted around 4 years. I then moved to Amplifon and the newer behind the ear model are streets ahead. Not just clearer hearing (far more adjustable audio bands), but they are MUCH smaller, have rechargeable batteries (no more fiddling with tiny button cells), Bluetooth with direct connection to the TV (via its optical output) letting me hear TV directly at a comfortable volume to me without disturbing anyone else’s listening but enabling me to hear conversations. There is also an accessory to connect directly by Bluetooth to your mobile phone for making calls or listening to music. They have more comfortable ear buds that are easier to insert and don’t affect me when eating. They truly are fit and forget because they are so comfortable. Several times I get into bed and realise I’m still wearing them!

There is an app for your phone (Android or IOS) that let you select different listening modes, make changes to volume level and adjust noise or wind filters to meet the occasion.

At night, you slip them off and drop them into the contactless recharging station that doubles as a powered carry case. This lets me recharge the hearing aids about 4 nights running without need to plug into a standard telephone charger: excellent for a weekend away and not have to fiddle with button cells.

As difficult as I found them, they are well worth the effort. Just ask my family!!!

PS These are ReSound LiNX hearing aids.

Very nice Terfar and I am sure they do as you say —but the cost ?, in the USA they start at $1500 .
For those like myself who can only afford visits to the NHS Audiology Dept. digital hearing aids are now the norm , not in your league of course .
As someone profoundly deaf in both ears I now have the largest available behind the ear hearing aids and for those like me attending the NHS be warned “digital ” is not all its supposed to be , it didn’t work for me and took a phone call to the Supervisor after two changes of their new digital hearing aid to get them replaced with an earlier model which can have the option of analogue working.

All this- adjust one and the other adjusts automatically and – “directional ” also – digitally reduced wind effect were useless to me and made them only sound flat (lack of HF response ) and directional stopped me hearing my wife call to me when the TV was on.
Things changed this latest visit ,he spent an hour or more programming them to what I wanted not what his swept tone tests said and clicked on analogue working .
Result ? great ! now I can hear sibilance correctly-wind in the tree,s etc in other words –Clarity.

I am specifically responding to the item I just read in Which on future hearing aid developments that talked about Nuheara’s technology. I am now on my third pair of Nuheara “buds” (as they call them), both of the two previous pairs having refused to upgrade and becoming in operable when a new software release took place. Getting them replaced was in both cases an extremely lengthy and time-wasting process, plus I don’t consider them to be very good as hearing aids, so do please be wary of recommending them before checking with a few users.

Thanks for that advice CharlesL – real down to earth facts by a user ,this is what the public want to hear.