Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Woman with hearing aids

Woman with hearing aids
beginning of content

Hearing aids

7-minute read

Key facts

  • A hearing aid is a small electronic device that makes sounds louder, to help people with hearing loss hear better.
  • Hearing aids can be worn in or behind your ear. They come in many different styles and sizes, with different features that are useful in different situations.
  • Your hearing aid must be programmed by an audiologist to match your type of hearing loss.
  • If you think you have hearing loss, you should have a hearing test. This can determine whether hearing aids might help you.
  • Eligible people can get free or subsidised hearing aids through the Australian Government Hearing Services Program.

What are hearing aids?

A hearing aid is a small electronic device that makes sounds louder to help you hear. It is used by people who have hearing loss. It has a microphone, an amplifier, a speaker and a battery.

How do hearing aids work?

The microphone receives sounds from around you. The amplifier makes them louder and sends them to your ear through the speaker.

Your hearing aids will be programmed by an audiologist to match your type of hearing loss. The audiologist will make sure that your hearing aids help with the sounds you have difficulty with and won't make your hearing worse.

It can take time for your brain to get used to how things sound with hearing aids. You might need the audiologist to fine tune your hearing aids as you are getting used to them.

How do I know if I need hearing aids?

If you think you have hearing loss, you should have a hearing test. An audiologist will perform a hearing test to determine what type of hearing loss you have and how severe it is. Based on this, they can tell you if you are likely to benefit from hearing aids.

It can be hard to tell if you have hearing loss because it often starts gradually. Some signs that you might have hearing loss include:

  • turning the volume up high on the TV
  • needing to ask people to repeat what they've said
  • difficulty hearing someone speaking in a crowded place or if they're not facing you
  • difficulty hearing over background noise
  • ringing in your ears
  • not hearing the phone or doorbell ring
  • avoiding certain situations because of problems with hearing

If you have a sudden loss of hearing, go to your local emergency department.

What types of hearing aids are there?

There are several types of hearing aids. Hearing aids are worn in or behind your ear and can vary in:

  • size
  • appearance
  • sound quality
  • price
  • special features
  • the way they are placed in your ear

Behind-the-ear hearing aids

These hearing aids sit behind your ear. Some have 2 parts, a sound processor that sits behind your ear and a receiver that sits in your ear canal. Some have only one part, which sits behind your ear and connects by a tube to an ear mould or ear tip in your ear.

Behind-the-ear hearing aids are relatively easy to clean and maintain. Some are bigger and more powerful and can be used by people with severe hearing loss.

In-the-ear hearing aids

These hearing aids are placed entirely in your ear. They are custom made to fit the shape of your ear. There are 3 different types, depending whether they sit:

  • completely inside your ear canal, these are the smallest
  • in your ear canal and a small part in your outer ear
  • in your outer ear, these are the biggest and easiest to handle

These are smaller than behind-the-ear hearing aids and harder to clean. They are more easily damaged by ear wax and wear and tear. The smallest ones may be less powerful and have fewer features than bigger hearing aids.

Special features

Most hearing aids have special features, which may include:

  • different settings for different environments
  • automatic volume or setting adjustment for different environments
  • a remote control to adjust settings
  • a telecoil which picks up certain signals installed in public places or telephones
  • background noise reduction

How do I choose which type of hearing aid to use?

Your choice will depend on many factors, including:

  • how severe your hearing loss is
  • your lifestyle
  • what price range is affordable for you
  • which style you like best

Think about which environments you are often in and how much background noise there is.

Speak to your audiologist about finding the right type of hearing aids for you.

Can my baby use hearing aids?

If your baby has hearing loss, hearing aids are very important for their hearing and speech development. It's best for your baby to wear their hearing aids whenever they are awake.

You will need to check the hearing aids every day to make sure that they're working well. They might make a whistling noise when your baby is lying down. Make sure that your baby can't put the battery or the ear mould into their mouth.

You might need to get new ear moulds often as your baby grows. If your baby tries to pull their hearing aids off, try using hats and headbands to keep them in place.

How can I get hearing aids?

The Australian Government Hearing Services Program offers eligible people free or subsidised hearing assessments and hearing aids. The free hearing aids are more basic and the subsidised ones have more features. You can check if you are eligible for the program.

If you are eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) you might be able to receive some assistance to buy hearing aids through the NDIS.

If you are not eligible for the government program, you may be able to get a hearing aid for a lower cost from a hearing aid bank, which reconditions donated hearing aids. There are national and state-based hearing aid banks. They each have eligibility criteria. You can ask the Hearing Services Program for information about a hearing aid bank near you or look at this list of organisations that provide hearing aid banks.

If you have private health insurance, check if you are covered for hearing aids. Hearing aids are not subsidised by Medicare.

Tips for using hearing aids

  • Wear your hearing aid for the amount of time your audiologist recommends.
  • Ask your hearing practitioner how to clean your hearing aid.
  • Don't get your hearing aid wet.
  • Keep batteries away from children and pets as they are very dangerous if swallowed.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Assistive Listening Devices - Ear Science Institute Australia

An alternative hearing device may be right you. Many alternatives can you back to participating in the things you enjoy.

Read more on Ear Science Institute Australia website

Hearing Aids - Hearing Australia

What better way to decide what hearing aid suits you best than to trial one?   Our specialist clinicians take the guesswork out of finding the right hearing solution for you

Read more on Hearing Australia website

Hearing Aids - Ear Science Institute Australia

At Lions Hearing Clinic we stock a huge range of Hearing Aids. Contact us for Phonak Hearing Aids, Oticon Hearing Aids, Bluetooth Hearing Aids and More!

Read more on Ear Science Institute Australia website

Help children to love their hearing aids - Hearing Australia

Let your child choose the colour and style of their hearing aid

Read more on Hearing Australia website

Safety tips for children’s hearing aids - Hearing Australia

Hearing aids play an important role in your child’s language and speech development

Read more on Hearing Australia website

Wearing hearing aids for the first time?

Using hearing aids for the first time can be an overwhelming experience as you readjust to interpreting sounds you may not have heard for years or ever at all.

Read more on Ear Science Institute Australia website

Keeping Your Hearing Aids in Great Condition: 4 Hot Tips

Hearing aids are important and if treated with the care they will last for many years. There are several ways to maintain the integrity of your hearing aids

Read more on Ear Science Institute Australia website

Helping your child get used to their hearing aids - Hearing Australia

Every year, a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children start using hearing aids for the first time

Read more on Hearing Australia website

Do hearing aids reduce tinnitus distress? - Ear Science Institute Australia

2 in 3 Australians will experience tinnitus at some point in their life. Do hearing aids help to reduce tinnitus

Read more on Ear Science Institute Australia website

How to do a daily check of your child's hearing aid - Hearing Australia

If there’s a wax build-up: clear it using a wax tool, available from Hearing Australia

Read more on Hearing Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.