Your hearing can change throughout your life. It's common to have problems hearing as you get older. There is plenty of help out there, and a range of devices that can help you hear better.
When should I seek help with my hearing?
It's a good idea to get regular hearing checks, even if you think your hearing is fine. Changes to your hearing can happen gradually over time, and you may not notice it if it does. You can get free hearing tests on the NHS if you ask your GP. They will usually refer you to a hearing specialist who can recommend the best hearing aid for you.
If you do have a problem, it's best to seek help and get treatment sooner rather than later.
Hearing aids can help with hearing loss. They work by picking up sounds around you and amplifying them inside your ear canal. They can also be set to connect to induction loops, which help you hear certain people more clearly in noisier environments.
Hearing aids only work if you have some of your hearing left, so the earlier you get one the more effective it can be.
On the NHS
If you need a hearing aid, you can get one free on the NHS. Your GP will refer you to an audiologist, who will assess your hearing and tell you the best type of hearing aid for you.
The NHS provides hearing aids as a long-term loan. This means they will provide repairs and replacement batteries for free. But they may charge you if it gets broken or lost and needs replacing.
There are many different types of hearing aids. Your hearing specialist will help you find the right one. Behind the ear hearing aids are the most common type. They’re one of the easiest types to use and suit most people with hearing loss. The NHS usually provides this type of hearing aid.
The type of hearing aid that best suits you will depend on your level of hearing loss. The NHS has information about hearing aids and how the NHS can help you with them.
You may want to buy a hearing aid privately if the model you want isn't available on the NHS, or if you're worried about potential waiting times for an NHS hearing aid. This can be expensive – a single hearing aid can cost between £500 and £3,500.
There is often greater choice if you receive treatment privately. Options can include more hidden hearing aids, and hearing aids designed for people with hearing loss only in one ear.
It's best to shop around – some models may suit you more than others. Some of the more expensive hearing aids are much smaller. They can be tricky to operate and change batteries if you have sight or dexterity problems. More expensive models may not be the best for you, so don’t feel pressured into buying one if you're not sure it'll be worth it.
Some people can't use hearing aids - for example, if you've got no hearing at all or if you're allergic to the materials they're made of. There are other devices that can help you even if your hearing loss is profound and permanent. Talk to your GP or audiologist about other options.
Technology to help with daily life
There's a wide range of devices that can make living with hearing loss easier and safer. RNID has a list of technology and assistive devices that can help support you in your everyday life.
You could get a doorbell with an especially loud ring, designed for people with some hearing left. You can also get doorbells that flash to let you know someone's there, and models you can wear on your wrist that vibrate when someone rings. Living Made Easy has more information on different types of doorbells.
Using your home phone
If your phone's ringer isn't loud enough, even on the loudest setting, you can get a phone designed with especially loud ringers and handsets. There are also devices you can attach to your current phone to make it louder, or a flashing light that lets you know when someone's calling. You can also get a device on your wrist that vibrates when you get a call.
RNID has more information on using landline phones and mobile phones. Living Made Easy has some examples of devices you might consider.
Help hearing the TV or radio
You might find that you prefer having the TV or radio on much more loudly than those around you. There are many wireless devices that allow you to watch TV or listen to the radio at a volume that’s comfortable for everyone:
- hearing loops (also known as induction loops)
- TV listeners
- assistive listening devices
- TV and Bluetooth streamers.
RNID has more information on how to better enjoy TV and radio.
If it's hard to hear your smoke alarm, it's important to get one designed for people with hearing problems. They usually include a vibrating pad to put under your pillow or mattress to wake you if the alarm goes off at night, and flashing lights to alert you during the day.
To find out what would work best for you, get a free home fire safety check. You can arrange this through your local fire and rescue service. They will assess the safety of your home and recommend a smoke alarm that's best for you. Our advice guide Home safety has more information on fire safety and alarms.
Your hearing loss might make it hard for you to use the phone. If you need to contact the emergency services, the Emergency SMS service lets you send a text message from your mobile phone to 999 or 112. If you want to use this service, you must register your mobile phone first. Visit the emergency SMS website to find out how to do this.
Hearing loss combined with sight loss is complex. It is treated in different ways, depending on your circumstances.
You can get a specialist deafblind assessment from your local council. This should involve an expert in deafblindness, who will consider your needs and the support you want. Contact Sense or Deafblind UK for more information.