With one in six people in the UK living with some form of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that the hearing aid market is a booming business. Figures from the consumer group Which?, show that the average amount spent on a pair of hearing aids is £2,501. But how can you make sure that you're getting the best deal on your hearing aids?
As the price varies depending on its technology and specifications, comparing costs can be a challenge. Add to this the more sophisticated features now on offer, such as Bluetooth streaming and compatibility with smartphones, plus extra charges for insurance, batteries and repairs, and it can feel like a financial minefield. Here's how to get the best value for money.
Check the NHS
Hearing aids are available on the NHS for anyone who needs them and are provided free as a long-term loan, and batteries and repairs are free. What’s more, you don't have to pay for any follow-up appointments or aftercare. However the waiting time for getting a hearing aid on the NHS can also sometimes be longer than the wait for private treatment.
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But while several modern hearing aids are available on the NHS, these are usually the Behind the ear (BTE) or Receiver in the ear hearing aids (RITE) type. If you’re looking for a wider range of hearing aids, including the smaller, less visible models or the latest technology, you may need to pay for private treatment.
In 2016, Which? surveyed its members to find out how much they had paid for a pair of hearing aids at the five big high street chains – and the costs varied by as much as £1,500. Scrivens Hearing Care charged £1,488, while Specsavers Audiologists came in at £1,619. Prices elsewhere on the high street were higher – Boots Hearingcare/David Ormerod Hearing Centre came in at £2,651, Hidden Hearing cost £2,885, and Amplifon was £3,017.
With such a huge variation in hearing aid prices, it’s worth getting quotes from multiple retailers.You can check prices of many products online so you can then get an idea of what you should be charged for brand-name products.
When it comes to buying hearing aids, the most important components are the quality, value for money and trust in the provider, says Gordon Harrison, Specsavers resident audiologist. “Ensure your provider is well qualified – The British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists (BSHAA) and the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) are key organisations,” he said. “If you’re unsure there are several reputable charities who can offer help and advice such as Action on Hearing Loss.”
Do your sums carefully
Keep in mind that you’re buying an ongoing service – this isn't just a one-off purchase of a hearing aid – so price should only be one factor in your decision. Pay special attention to the terms of service and follow-up care as it will vary between shops, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still try to compare hearing aid prices.
At Specsavers, every purchase comes with a full aftercare package, including free batteries for four years, a 90-day money back satisfaction period and free aftercare appointments for as long as you need them. That means you can get advice, maintenance checks and adjustments made whenever you need to.
Many hearing aid providers offer the chance to spread the cost of hearing aids with interest-free monthly payments. This will make it easier to manage the cost of the hearing aid and ensure you get the one that's suited to you. Interest-free finance options are available at providers like Amplifon, Hidden Hearing and Boots, which could save you a fortune.
You can also select plans that let you choose to spread your payments over 12, 18 or 24 months. You can discuss your finance options during your appointment with a hearing care specialist – but always make sure you check the interest rate.
Read the small print
Make sure you understand the terms of the trial period. It should be a minimum of 28 days. Also check if there is a cancellation fee for returning the hearing aids within the trial period.
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Check the warranty period and what it covers. Leading hearing aid specialists typically offer warranties from one year up to five years, depending on the brand, style and price of the hearing aid. Always check what's covered, for instance, replacing a lost aid or repairing it, and replacing non-functioning ones.
Think about the insurance costs
You wouldn't carry around a £2,000 computer without insurance, and you shouldn't wear your hearing aids without adequate cover against loss or damage either.
Most dispensers can arrange insurance cover for you but you may be able to include your hearing aids in an existing policy such as for household contents. With Co-op Insurance, these devices will be covered with contents insurance while in the home, but only against the risks specified such as fire and theft.
To ensure full cover for hearing aids, including accidental loss or damage outside the home, you’ll need to add unspecified Personal Possessions cover to your policy; and if you need more than £2,000 cover for a hearing aid you will need to add it as a Specified Personal Possession.
If you do insure your hearing aids, always insure them for the full value and not the price that might include any discount or offer – you’ll find this on your invoice. This will make sure that in the event of a claim, you'll have enough insurance to cover your hearing aid if the same offer or discount no longer applies.