Audiology services & hearing aid provision

If you, or someone you care for has a hearing impairment, you may need to arrange a hearing test or book to have a new hearing aid fitted.  There are two different routes to achieving this, either through the NHS or through a private hearing aid dispenser.

Hearing test graphThe NHS offers hearing assessments and hearing aid provision (if required) without direct charge to the individual. To access these services your GP will need to refer you to the most appropriate service provider, this might not be the place or provider that you expect for example you may be sent to a shop on the high street rather than the local hospital, please see the following section on AQP.

The private sector offer hearing tests and hearing aid provision without the need for a referral from your GP, however the services they provide can be chargeable and the fee that they charge varies considerably from company to company, for example you may have a free hearing test and then receive a quote for the cost of the hearing aids. Many companies offer a money back guarantee if you purchase hearing aids from them, ask them to confirm if this is available and how long you have to return them if you are not satisfied. If you prefer to use the private sector you may wish to use a dispenser who has been recommended to you by a friend or visit several in your local area to assess their quality of service and costs.

The Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) have a register of all private hearing aid dispensers who meet their standards, they will also investigate claims of poor practice and take appropriate action (please see their website for details about their standards and how to make a complaint). The British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists (BSHAA) is another professional body who support those in private practice. BSHAA will also try to assist you if you encounter problems with a private hearing aid professional.

Whether you decide to use the NHS or private sector route, the process will be similar. 

Before the hearing assessment begins the hearing care professional (also known as Audiologist or Hearing Aid Dispenser) checks that your ears are free from wax and other problems such as infection. A hearing test may not be performed if there is too much wax present or an infection, this is because it can affect the results of the test. A number of questions will then be asked to check that it is safe to proceed with the test and to make sure that the audiologist has all the information they need to diagnose your hearing problem and/or refer you to other professionals that may be able to help.

A basic hearing test for adults usually involves responding to a series of tones through headphones and then through a headband that sits behind the ear. Adults are asked to press a button when they hear the sound and release it again when the sound stops to let the professional know that they have heard the sound. The tones vary in volume throughout the test; some are easy to hear while others are much harder as they are very quiet. It is the quietest sounds that you can hear that are recorded and make up your hearing test results or audiogram. This is an example of what an audiogram looks like:

Your audiologist will explain what the hearing test results mean, give you a copy of the results, and then discuss with you and your family / carer how you might wish to proceed with any treatment, often fitting of hearing aids. For more information please see:

Related links in this section

Hearing technologies homepage

Any Qualified Provider (AQP)

Types of hearing aids

Implantable devices

Hearing aid accessories and related technologies

 


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Updated: September 2014
Review due: December 2015

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First published: Thursday 11 July 2013
Updated: Tuesday 22 December 2015