Private Hearing Aids Guide

The Department of Health estimates that around 4 million people in the UK suffer from hearing loss; the vast majority of these people could benefit from wearing a hearing aid, but many choose not to, believing that hearing aids are bulky, uncomfortable and outdated. In reality, there have been major advances in design and technology even over the course of the last 5-10 years and you may be surprised just what is on offer to those who experience hearing loss today.

This guide will provide a detailed overview of private hearing aids, discuss the differences between NHS and private hearing aids, explain how and why hearing loss occurs and highlight the advantages and disadvantages of private hearing aids to inform you and enable you to make a well-rounded decision when it comes to your individual treatment.

A hearing aid is a device, which is designed to make it easier for people who have a degree of hearing loss to hear, by amplifying sounds to make them louder. If you have perfectly good hearing, you may take this for granted but once you experience even mild hearing loss, it can have a significant impact on day to day life; you may struggle to hear the television or radio or find yourself asking people to repeat things they have said when chatting. Hearing loss can make work-related projects, social occasions and even the most mundane everyday tasks more difficult and a hearing aid can make life easier in an instant.

There are various different types of hearing aid available and some models, which are available from private providers, are not available on the NHS. It is possible to use analogue or digital hearing aids; analogue hearing aids amplify sounds and noises using electric signals, while digital aids work by using incredibly small computers to make sounds louder. The most common types of hearing aid include:

  • Behind the ear (BTE) hearing aids
  • Receiver in the ear (RITE) hearing aids
  • In the ear (ITE) hearing aids
  • Completely in the canal (CIC) hearing aids
  • Invisible in the canal (IIC) hearing aids
  • Body worn hearing aids

These types of hearing aid will be discussed in detail later in the guide in the section: which types of hearing aid are available?

Audiology services are provided by the NHS and private clinics and organisations. The majority of people in the UK receive healthcare from the NHS (the National Health Service) and this form of care is funded by government and taxpayer money; in most cases, treatment is provide free of charge. Some notable exceptions include dental treatment and eye care, although free treatment is available for those who are in receipt of certain benefits and children. Private clinics set their own fees and these can vary significantly, according to the specific clinic you visit, the doctor or audiologist you see and the type of hearing aid you choose.

There are advantages and disadvantages of both private and NHS hearing aids and it is always best to weigh up all your options before you make a decision. If you suffer from hearing loss or you have noticed that your hearing has been deteriorating, it is hugely beneficial to consult your GP and to consider services or appliances, which may help you to hear better; aside from making life easier and preventing you from missing out on conversations, important information during meetings or your favourite television programmes, you will also feel more confident in scenarios where you rely on your hearing.

About Hearing

Before we embark on a discussion about private hearing aids, it’s probably beneficial to talk a little about hearing and how it works. Many of us process millions of sounds everyday without really even thinking about it, but hearing is a complex process. Here is a brief explanation of how you hear:

Your ears enable you to hear; they pick up vibrations in the form of sound, which travel through the outer ear and the eardrum into the small bones, known as ossicles, in the middle ear; the ossicles make the vibrations louder and pass them through to the inner ear. Once inside the inner ear, the vibrations reach very sensitive receptor cells in the cochlea; these cells convert the vibrations into electrical signals. The electrical signals are then sent to the brain by the auditory nerve. The brain then processes the signals, which enables you to interpret the sound. Your ears are capable of capturing a whole host of sounds, from very low tones to incredibly high pitched sounds.

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