Royal National Institute for Deaf People Website

Department of Health Website

Frequently Asked Questions

1) Does my local hospital provide digital hearing aids?
To check if your hospital has joined the modernisation scheme, click your region on the map. You will see a list of those hospitals which are currently fitting digital hearing aids for adults and/or children, and those which are in the process of modernising. Where a start date is available, it is given.

2) Why is it taking so long to reach my area?
Before new sites can begin to offer improved technology to patients, the infrastructure and equipment of audiology departments needs to be modernised, existing staff need to be trained, and in many cases additional staff need to be recruited. All this takes time and funding, which is why the Modernised Service cannot be offered in all areas immediately.

3) My local NHS hearing aid service has not yet been modernised. Is there anything I can do?
Some services want to apply to take part in the modernisation programme but cannot get the support of their Primary Care Trusts (PCTs). The Department of Health funds most of the upgrade, but PCTs have to contribute. If this is the problem in your area you could try to persuade your local MP to put pressure on the PCT.

4) What is happening in Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland?

In February 2003, the Scottish Executive announced an investment of £8 million over four years to modernise audiology services. This was on top of the £2.25 million funding that they had already provided to upgrade audiology equipment. Then in October 2003, a further £9 million over three years was announced to ensure that hearing services have the necessary equipment, staff and digital hearing aids. Scotland should have completed the upgrade by 2007.

The Welsh Executive has provided £2.25 million to help modernise audiology services and hearing aids throughout Wales. Local funding has also been provided and all departments are now delivering the new service.

Northern Ireland:
The Northern Ireland Minister pledged £2.5 million to modernise audiology services by March 2004. This is being used to equip and train audiology staff and to supply departments with digital hearing aids so that they can provide these to patients.

5) My hospital doesn't provide digital hearing aids can I:

a) travel to another hospital?
Not normally. In special circumstances, your GP may be able to refer you to another audiology department.

b) pay towards the cost of the digital hearing aid?
No. The NHS hearing aid service is provided free of charge according to need. The hearing aids are provided on long term loan to patients, and remain the property of the NHS. It is against the law for hospitals to sell NHS hearing aids.

6) My local NHS hearing aid service has been modernised but I already have a hearing aid – when will I be able to get digital hearing aids?
If you have been given a new hearing aid within the last three years you will generally not be able to get digital aids yet, unless your hearing has become significantly worse since then. You should wait to be invited for an appointment, but do make sure that your hearing aid department knows your present address.

7) I have had my hearing aid/s for years – what should I do?
If your hearing aids are old, you should ask to be seen again in any case – whether your service has been modernised or not. There are much-improved hearing aids available now. You can contact your hearing aid department directly.

8) I am a War Pensioner. Can I go to the front of the queue?
If you are a war pensioner you will be given priority for hearing aids if your pension was awarded for deafness resulting from service. This means that you may be seen more quickly at your clinic but it does not mean that you are entitled to better hearing aids than other patients receive. If your local clinic is part of the modernisation project you will probably be able to try digital hearing aids.

9) What sort of digital hearing aids are available on the NHS?
Digital hearing aids from several of the world’s leading manufacturers have been chosen for the programme. These aids are available on the high street for up to £2,000 each (including service costs), but cost the NHS a fraction of the retail price because it is making use of its bulk purchasing power (the NHS is the largest buyer of hearing aids in the world). These aids are provided free of charge as with traditional analogue NHS hearing aids. Both moderate-power and high-power digital hearing aids are available for adults and children. Most are behind-the-ear style. They are sophisticated aids with features such as directional microphones, automatic noise reduction, and suppression of feedback (whistling).

Click here for a list of models currently available on the NHS.

10) Can I get in-the-ear digital hearing aids on the NHS?
Not usually, because the in-the-ear models tested as part of the modernisation were not found to be cost-effective compared with behind-the-ear models. The digital hearing aid factsheet explains more about the different syles of aid. The range of aids offered by the NHS will be regularly reviewed, and as hearing aid technology improves, other styles may become available on prescription.

11) What is the new service like?
The new service recognises that – as well as modern, high quality hearing aids – people need plenty of support, information and advice so that they can get the best out of their aids and achieve a better quality of life.

So you can expect:

· Audiology staff will spend more time with you to assess your needs thoroughly and discuss how hearing aids can help

· You will be offered a hearing aid for each ear if you are likely to benefit more from two than just one

· Your digital hearing aids will be carefully set up and fine-tuned to suit you and give you the best results

· You will be advised on how to use and care for your hearing aids and how to get the best benefit from them

· You will also be told about additional services and equipment that might be useful to you

· You will be invited back to check how you are getting on, make any further adjustments that are necessary and help with any problems you are experiencing

· Staff will use questionnaires to record how much you use your hearing aids, how helpful they are in your everyday life and how satisfied you are with them.

If you think you need hearing aids - and you have not had an NHS hearing aid before - you must first go to your GP to be referred.