Do You Have Problems Hearing the Television?

One of the most common complaints we hear at Associated Audiologists is that the patient has problems hearing the television. In fact, the patient’s spouse or family often mentions that the volume is turned up so loud, the television can be heard throughout the house. For those without hearing loss, that can be annoying. For the person with hearing loss, it’s a sign that they need to have their hearing checked, or if they have hearing aids, they may need them adjusted.

In addition, some patients’ hearing needs an extra “boost” to fully enjoy television programming without blasting the rest of the family out of the house. The good news is that there are some television-specific assistive listening devices that not only can help the patient hear their favorite programs but can make the experience more enjoyable for others in the home.

More specifically, TV listening devices include those that stream sound directly through the hearing aids utilizing a Bluetooth connection or those that boost sound using headphones. Closed captioning also may be a good option for some.

So why worry if you’re turning your TV volume up? If your TV volume is turned up to the max, you may notice that the sound quality becomes distorted, depending on the quality of the television’s speakers. This may be damaging your television speakers. Turning the TV volume up also may be distracting for others in the home or neighbors.

If you find that wearing hearing aids or having them adjusted doesn’t help you enjoy television, you might want to talk with your audiologist about specific listening devices that can improve TV listening. Many of the major hearing aid brands, such as Widex, ReSound and Phonak, offer devices that connect to their hearing aids using Bluetooth technology or frequency-modulated (FM) systems.

Advantages include:

  • Hearing aids equipped with Bluetooth technology can receive a signal directly from a TV device, smartphone or another Bluetooth-enabled device directly to the hearing aids. The hearing aids just need to be paired with the transmitting device. Then, with the press of a button, wireless streaming can occur.
  • By delivering the sound directly to the individual’s hearing aids, the overall sound quality improves, and background noise in the room is reduced.
  • The individual with hearing loss can control the volume they personally hear independent of the volume of the television’s speakers.
  • Family members with different degrees of hearing ability can enjoy television together.

Intermediary streaming devices often use an FM or Bluetooth signal and then send it to the hearing aids via another wireless connection.

Other possibilities

If you don’t wear hearing aids but have trouble hearing the television, TV earphones may be an option. One popular brand is TV Ears. These types of devices include a transmitting base which plugs directly into the TV’s headphone jack. The listener wears a headset. TV Ears uses infrared light to transmit the sound signal from the transmission base to the earphones. The individual wearing the headset must position the base within the line of sight of the headset at all times so that the infrared signal can communicate with the headset. There are controls on the headset so the wearer may adjust the volume and tone of the sound delivered to their ears. One transmission base can deliver signals to several headsets, which can be controlled independently by each user.

When the sound from the television still isn’t clear enough, closed-captioned television may be an option. It allows the individual to hear and read speech on the television screen, making the dialogue available for everyone in the family. All digital televisions with screens greater than 13″ must offer closed captioning per the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This is a great option for people with hearing loss because it may already exist on your television. If you haven’t used it previously, there should be a button on your remote control with a “CC” icon. Typically, you can switch it off and on.

There are several good options available to help you enjoy television programming. Some are included with your television, such as closed captioning, some may be available at a minimal cost, and some, such as hearing aids equipped with Bluetooth technology, may be more costly, but there is an option for everyone.

Schedule an appointment with a doctoral-level audiologist to learn about the latest options to enjoy television programming.