Getting Started - NHS Hearing Aid Service

Concerned you may have a hearing loss?

Firstly, you are not alone – one in five adults in the UK have a hearing loss.1,2 A common myth is that hearing loss only affects the elderly. In reality, many of us aged over 40 have some degree of hearing loss.2,3 NHS Audiology Services allow you to access high quality Audiological care and hearing aids free of charge. Hearing loss is broadly described as being ‘sensorineural’, ‘conductive’, or a mix of both3:

Sensorineural hearing loss

This is the most common form of hearing loss.5 It occurs due to damage in the inner ear or hearing nerve, which affects your ear’s ability to alert the brain to sound.3,6 For example:3

  • The natural ageing process
  • Prolonged exposure to loud noises
  • Viral ear infections
  • Certain medical treatments, e.g. chemotherapy, radiotherapy

Conductive hearing loss

This describes hearing loss caused by sound being unable to reach the inner ear. This can be as simple as a plug of ear wax blocking sound, or something more complex:

  • Fluid in the middle ear
  • Middle ear infections
  • A hole (‘perforation’) in the ear drum
  • Medical disorders affecting the hearing bones (which sit behind the ear drum)

Where can I get help?

Life is so much more enjoyable when you can hear what’s going on around you. Take the first step today by making an appointment to see your GP. Your GP will look in your ears and may do some simple hearing checks. This initial assessment helps to rule out treatable things that could be affecting your hearing – such as ear wax or an ear infection.1,4

If your GP suspects that you may have a hearing loss, they will refer you to your NHS Audiology Service for a full hearing assessment. While you wait for an appointment at your local NHS Audiology department you may find the following ‘good communication’ tips1,7,8 helpful:

  • Face people when they’re talking to you, as we all naturally lip read
  • Ask people to get your attention before speaking, for example by tapping you on the arm, as this will help you to avoid missing the starts of sentences
  • Ask people are near you during a conversation, as hearing something shouted from a neighbouring room can be very difficult
  • Don’t be afraid to ask people to repeat themselves, rephrase, speak more slowly, or write things down, rather than trying to guess what they said
  • Reduce background noise where possible – for example moving somewhere quiet or turning down music when you’re having a chat
  • Try to remain calm – getting flustered or upset may make it more difficult to concentrate on what is being said

How will my hearing be tested?

There are 5 key steps to a hearing assessment appointment:

1. Answering some questions

Most appointments start with questions about your general health and any previous problems with your ears or hearing. You may also be asked when you first noticed hearing difficulties, whether it has been getting worse, and to describe how it affects you.3,9,10 This all helps the audiologist to understand the effect your hearing difficulties are having on your life, and therefore which treatments might be suitable for you.

2. The audiologist looking in your ear

The audiologist uses a special light called an otoscope to inspect your ears. This allows them to check for anything abnormal, like an ear infection, injured ear drum or wax blockage.3

3. Taking the hearing test

This is probably the easiest test you will ever take. Hearing tests are simple, painless and in most cases only take up to 15 minutes. The test is designed to measure how loud sounds need to be for you to hear them.

You will be sat in a soundproof room or booth and asked to press a button every time you hear a sound – it’s as easy as that! During the test you will hear a variety of different sounds, from very high to very low pitch, at different volumes, ranging from easy to hear to very quiet harder to hear sounds.3 While you’re listening the audiologist will record the results on a graph called an audiogram.3,9

4. Discussing the results

Once you finish the hearing test your results will be available straight away. The audiologist will show you a graph like the one opposite, which shows how loud sounds needed to be before you heard them and pressed the button.

From left to right the graph shows low pitch to high pitch sounds. The further down the graph the plotted points are, the louder the sound had to be before you could hear it. There are two lines on the graph as each ear is tested individually – the blue line and crosses show the results for your left ear, and red line and circles are for your right ear.

As part of the discussion your audiologist will advise if have a hearing loss. If the results show a hearing loss, you will also be told if this is mild, moderate, severe, or profound in severity.3,9

5. Deciding what to do next

If you are diagnosed with a hearing loss there are many options for you to choose from. Your audiologist can provide tips to help improve your communication skills, and if you meet the local criteria, they may also recommend that you try wearing one or two NHS hearing aids.9

Benefits of treating hearing loss

People who take the active step to manage their hearing loss with hearing aids experience many benefits such as:

  • Improve confidence to socialise with family and friends10,11
  • Help maintain your independence and improve your quality of life10–12
  • Reduce risk of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression13,14
  • Help to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia13,15

Preparing for your appointment

Whatever you choose as the best course of action for your hearing loss, it is important to be prepared. Listed below are some questions you may wish to ask your audiologist to help you decide if NHS hearing aids are right for you:

  • What type of hearing loss do I have?
  • Would I need a left and/or right hearing aid? Why?
  • If I choose to have an NHS hearing aid what types are available?
  • What do they look like and what technologies (smartphone, iPad, iPhone) can they connect to?

For NHS hearing aids to work properly you need to wear them regularly, ideally all day. However, your brain will need to adjust to your ears listening through them, so at first you may find wearing them for an hour or two is enough. You can build up to wearing hearing aids all day at your own pace. It’s a good idea to wear them for as long as you feel you can as the more you wear them, the faster you will get used to them.16


  1. National Health Service (NHS). Hearing loss. December 2021. Available at: (accessed February 2022);
  2. Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID). Facts and figures. Available at: (accessed February 2022);
  3. National Health Service (NHS) Inform. Hearing loss. June 2021. Available at: (accessed February 2022);
  4. Hear USA. Hearing Loss Facts. Available at: (accessed February 2022);
  5. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Sensorineural Hearing Loss. Available at: (accessed February 2022);
  6. Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID). Types and causes of hearing loss and deafness. Available at: (accessed February 2022);
  7. Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID). Communication tips if you have hearing loss. Available at: (accessed February 2022);
  8. West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Communication tactics for everyone and for hearing loss. March 2021. Available at: (Accessed February 2022);