Wednesday, 25 January 2023

NHS hearing aids with a phone smartphone or laptop PC

 Created; January 2023, Changed; 26-01-2023, 27-01-2023 

Maker; Phonak, provided by NHS free with free battery, and supply of replacement tubes and soft ends.  The phones and tubes are handed Blue - Left and Red - Right.  The consumables can be picked up from the local library's or other places once a month at certain times, provided that you bring your NHS hearing aid logbook with you.  I do not know how widely Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Health Authority provide this support if it is just within my health authority region or across England? 

Normal use;

  • The buttons on the hearing aids are top to increase the volume and bottom to reduce the volume.  There is a different tune warning for when the maximum or minimum volume setting is reached than with a notification from a connected Bluetooth device.
    • Setting the volume lower is helpful in a noisy environment or setting them higher to hear more clearly can make them uncomfortable though can be necessary.  
    • The hearing aids can not be set too quiet or too loud they are calibrated for you.
    • The buttons are ganged by Bluetooth connection so you only need to touch a button on one side to change the volume on both sides for example.
    • The hearing aids are switched on or off by clicking and closing or slightly opening the battery compartment.
  • When Bluetooth is connected; - These instructions are the same as the NHS leaflet.
    • Press the top button for a medium length of time on the hearing aid to answer your ringing phone. 
    • Press the top button for a longer time on the hearing aid to disconnect the call.  The hearing aid will play a tune to confirm the phone is disconnected.
    • Answering the phone directly may connect or may not connect the hearing aid.  It connects to my basic Doro phones but does not connect to my Doro smartphone.
    • If you are using your hearing aid your voice will be picked up by the hearing aid but if you have your phone is nearby then its microphone will also pick up your voice making what you say unclear to the other person.  Therefore move your phone away from your face. 
    • If one of the batteries fails or a hearing aid is turned off then the Bluetooth sound connection will break and stop to the other hearing aid.
  • Without hearing aids, there are sound equaliser apps. for smartphones which you may do the job well enough.
    • If you have the tone set to work without your hearing aids on your non-Bluetooth HiFi or smartphone but then use your hearing aids the sound will sound unusual (in my case high-pitched) but what is said should still be clearer.  
  • The hearing aid usually plays a short tune when anything notifiable occurs in your connected device including turning on that device.  Selectively turning off some notifications is useful but may be difficult to configure.

The NHS is concerned about your mental health and I have noticed that I can include myself in conversations once again and that my comprehension of what people say is much better,  even without the hearing aids it is still better after just a few weeks of using the hearing aids.  The benefit was immediate although the phones which are excellent did cause minimal irritation, which will diminish in time.  I do not wear the phones at home but have turned up the treble and turned down the base on my Hi-Fi which at first sounds strange at first but just makes everything clear, this does a similar thing to how the hearing aids have been calibrated which the NHS will explain to you when you are tested and when the hearing aids are fitted.  

The hearing aids also reduce the hissing noise from Tinnitus - Tinnitus is not a disease but the brain trying to compensate for my poor hearing.  Hearing aids do a better job than avoiding drinking coffee, which coffee also exasperates Tinnitus.  The difference in hearing is that I can hear people speaking but now I can understand what they say, without needing to strain to understand them.

Laptop and the NHS, Phonak hearing aids with the battery compartment open for battery 
replacement or part open to switch them off.  The picture I am editing this blog page.

Windows 10; linked to two devices; "LE-L Left hearing aid" and "LE-R Left hearing aid" but this did not work. Some devices only show a string of numbers and letters which you do not know what it is until you have connected successfully to it.  This was the case with Windows 10, Ubuntu and Lubuntu which did not work either.  The correct connection probably should;  "R-NHS hearing aid" but this does not work either.  The connection won't or may not be completed if the hearing aids have an active connection to another device so turn that other device off or its Bluetooth off whilst you make the new connection.

NHS provides hearing aids with instructions, spare batteries, tubes and ends.  The phones if lost or broken are subject to charges for their replacement.  Bluetooth is connected easily too with basic Doro mobile phones.  It was not easy to a tablet or seems impossible with a smartphone, or laptop.  Phonak referred me to the NHS who in turn but for basic things have yet to answer my support request.  It turns out that Sony Bluetooth Headphone advice might be helpful?  See;  How to connect your Bluetooth headphones to a laptop/desktop computer | Sony UK

Doro 6620 phone;  The Settings, Sound, Audio setup, HAC option is not relevant or required.  The Bluetooth connection menu and search for devices, turn the hearing aids off then on again and connect to the hearing aid.  Its name shows differently as; "R-NHS hearing aid" (this is both hearing aids).

The phone is two or three years old and there is a firmware update available for it dated August 2022.  This update is not available generally Doro tells me that their agents will carry out the update.  The battery's capacity deteriorated over the past year or two unexpectedly.  I found that the charger was at fault and the capacity of the battery increased greatly after the charger was replaced.  So the state of charge indicator within the phone also seems to be at fault.   The camera within the phone is not particularly good or required when the phone was purchased. 

USB power output is 4.5 - 5.5V at least 500mA, but for a device to charge a device with a 4.2V lithium cell then the supply voltage needs to be nearer 5.5V than 5V.  Hence phones may or may not charge when connected to different USB devices and chargers.

Doro 8030 smartphone;  There is a setting HAC does not help for hearing aids. 

This is an Android 5.1 smartphone go to google play and install the Sony Bluetooth Headphones.  Then go to Bluetooth settings you should delete the two hearing aid connections and make a new connection to; "R-NHS hearing aid" which is now available.  The hearing aids now connect when you press the top button on the left hearing aid but do not connect if you use the phone to answer a call.

I understand there is a similar Phonak hearing aid app. for Android 6.x.  You should not need it if you have another similar app. installed.

This smartphone's camera is particularly, good, and works in low light available light, produces sharp but not saturated pictures but gives natural light photos a greenish tinge.  Therefore it is set compromised for natural and artificial light.  The phone is slow and when used is best connected to a device or charge because its battery does not last long.

The basic type Doro phone 610 purchased in 2011 connects easily. The battery after 10 years or so will only charge if it is run down first and lasts a day. allbatteries stock the battery for this phone. They are a well-established UK company.  This phone does not have a hearing aid setting but connects easily.

The Tablet Android 4.x purchased in about 2014 does not need a driver or an app. but connects to the phones via Bluetooth, you may be offered three devices you may need to disconnect and reconnect to get  "R-NHS hearing aid"

Bluetooth does not connect automatically necessarily to phones after the first time it is used.  If it has not, go to settings and turn off Bluetooth, Turn off the left hearing aid, then turn both on and the hearing aids connect.

At the hospital auditory clinic;

The doctor took time to test and explain to me.  On the second visit similarly testing and finally completing the calibration of my hearing aids order for me.

Aftercare - you will need to visit the hospital after two years and within three years to have the hearing aids checked.  After three years you will need to ask your GP to make a referral for you. 

New Batteries and other maintenance -  you can do these yourself or go to one of the volunteers who visit a public building monthly to get more batteries and help with other maintenance and basic support.

The Laptop is a Toshiba running either Windows 10, Lubuntu or Ubuntu;

issues to be resolved;

  • Ubuntu 20 connects by Bluetooth but the Bluetooth does not stay turned on.
  • Windows 10; is connected to two devices LE_L-NHS hearing aid and LE_R-NHS hearing aid.  This is probably wrong but the connection was made randomly by connecting to an unrecognised device and then seeing what was connected.  The R_NHS hearing aid headset is probably the correct option but this virtual would not connect until I turned off my connected phone, but when it did connect there was still no sound.
  • I have left a support request with the NHS on these issues with my laptop.

Other issues;

The Doro phone's memory capacity is small 8GB so although I added an 8GB SD card though very few of the programmes could be moved to it.  I have disabled as many pre-loaded apps. as possible in order to make it work and added others that could be moved to the SD card.  This is not an entirely satisfactory solution though because the free memory is low which slows the smartphone.

The Sony Bluetooth Headphone app. could not be moved to the SD card.

The hearing aids accidentally get very wet;

Inadvertently putting the hearing aids through the washing machine and they would have been switched off; 

  • Take the dedicator out dry it by microwaving it for 30 seconds, squeeze it, turn it over, give it another 30 seconds and squeeze it again. 
  • Take the batteries out put the hearing aids into a small jar with a dry dedicated leave them for 24 hours.
  • If the desiccator is small repeat the drying of it, then put the hearing aids and desiccator back in the jar and leave them for another 24 hours.

Desiccators can be found in with sealed-packed items, worth drying and keeping some in a sealed jar for this sort of situation.