It depends on where you live. Theoretically the NHS can supply any hearing aid. In reality, the “catalogue” aids are the cheapest, and unless you have a very very unusual requirement then you will be getting a catalogue aid. Unless you have a special need for an in-ear aid (and I don’t mean cosmetic need, I mean say you do not have an outer ear at all) then you get a BTE. You get much, much superior technology that way too, as all in-ear ones in the catalogue are currently still analogue.
This is where policies start to go local. There is no difference in actual costs to order beige or order nice colours, however there is an admin and repair cost in allowing people to have a choice of colours, so some areas allow it and some do not.
Then there is the policy about how often you can have a new aid. If you aid still meets the needs of your hearing then you don’t qualify to have it replaced until you have had it 3-5 years, depending on local policy. So it might be why your uncle has an old one even though others in the area have a nice new one, he will eventually be due for a new one. They also don’t like to replace aids for people who are not wearing their current aid well. With the datalogging technology and the state of your battery book they will be able to see if the aid has been on the ear or in the box. It’s hard to persuade them to change your aid for a new one if you have worn it 3 hours then given it up, you have to have given it a good try before deciding it’s not working. Don’t expect them to call you, either. Even if they say they will. You have to arrange to go back for check-ups and refits otherwise you will have the same hearing aid till kingdom come. If he has had the aid more than 5 years and hasn’t been seen since then get him to contact the hospital for a review appointment.
Each area usually chooses one or more brand, as they have to train on and purchase separately each fitting software. It’s cheaper to give everyone Oticons then you only have to own Oticon. If they rarely dispense a particular brand it’s likely they will not be very well trained and experienced in fitting it anyway.
Within each brand there is one aid suitable to each type of loss, so the Reflex L will cover your mild to moderate or HF losses, Reflex M the mid-range losses, Reflex DP and Reflex DSP for the profound losses. So in reality, if your area dispenses Siemens aids then there will only be one NHS aid that suits you because you have a hearing loss that suits only one of these models. There are 17(?) digital aids in “the catalogue” just now (if you don’t count sub-variants of the same thing, like colour choices or battery locks) but in reality only one will usually be available to you personally.
Most are manfuactured specially for the NHS, so it’s tricky to compare features with aids that are available privately, but they are mid-range aids rather than the top of the range. The catalogue is due for update in August, at which point it is expected that RITE aids will start to be available for the first time, but if you already have a recent aid then you won’t get one for a while. Aids which are dropped from the catalogue will be gradually discontinued, so if you have an old one which becomes irrepairable and all stocks are depleted you would get a new set.
Different areas have different policies on provision of one or two aids. It is rare now to find places that offer only one, but many age discriminate and offer only one side to new customers over 55.
Current catalogue is:
Spirit 3 power
Spirit 3 super power
Phonak Eterna 311Daz
Danalogic 6 – 6080dvi
Reflex DSP Super Power
Naida V Ultra Power
Naida V Super Power
Starkey Strata A312 MM Paed
Prisma 2 k
Spirit 3 direct
Spirit Zest Mini