Organisation and finance
In the UK there are two ways of obtaining hearing aids. Hearing aids may be issued free of charge by the National Health Service (NHS)following refferal by a GP to the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT), or hearing aid (audiology) department at an NHS hospital or hearing aids can be purchased privately from a registered hearing aid dispenser. Most of the hearing aids in the UK is issued through the NHS-system.
All treatment of children and young people is free of charge, regardless of hearing aid type, until the child or youth leaves the educational system.
The Hearing Aid Council (HAC) regulates the conduct of private hearing aid dispensers through its Code of Practice. The Code of Practice specifies minimum standards for the dispensing of privately purchased hearing aids. All private hearing aid dispensers must by law be registered with the HAC.
Testing and treatment
First stop is a visit to the family doctor (GP), who, if it is a case of hearing impairment, will send the patient on to an ENT-doctor for further testing. Persons over the age of 60 with uncomplicated, age-related hearing loss can be referred directly to the nearest audiology department or hearing aid centre.
People can also choose to go directly to a private hearing aid dispenser.
Waiting lists for taking tests and receiving hearing aids in the public health sector varies geographically, from 4 weeks up to 19 months, with an average of about 20 weeks.
If people choose to go to a private dispenser there are no waiting lists involved when having hearing aids fitted.
Types of hearing aids
Until recently, people who were hard of hearing could choose between a limited range of analogue hearing aids within the NHS system. In 2001, digital hearing aids was introduced to the NHS.
When people choose to go to a private dispenser, they can buy the hearing aid they prefer.
Batteries and service
Batteries and repairs are free of charge within the NHS system. There might be a charge for repairs if a hospital committee judges that the patient has been particularly careless with his or her hearing aids.
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