If you’re anything like most people, you’ve established (or renewed) a close relationship with your television over the course of the past year. Getting together with friends has been complicated, traveling has been difficult, and spending a night out on the town has been flat out discouraged, so we’ve instead spent our time traveling to different worlds and meeting new people from the comfort of our living rooms.
For people experiencing hearing loss, TV time can be discouraging. Nobody wants to have to crank the television up to VERY LOUD only to still have trouble tracking the dialogue that moves the show along. Plus, the increased decibels bother the neighbors—or maybe watching with family and friends becomes difficult because the high volume is too much for them.
Thankfully, we live in a world with many different technologies that can help you enjoy your favorite movies and shows if you have hearing loss. In this article, we at CaptionCall have gathered together a list of things you can try and things you can buy to enhance your TV-watching experience.
Before we jump in, we do want to recommend the first crucial step to take if you feel you’re having trouble hearing the television and think you may have hearing loss: Contact an audiologist and schedule a hearing test. For some people, the simple addition of hearing aids or cochlear implants does the trick. For others, these assistive devices are starting points on their hearing loss journey and can be combined with some of the below tips and technologies.
On Your TV
You can do many things right away without any additional purchases. Before buying the next great thing, try these tips.
Televisions have several adjustable audio settings—and you don’t need to be tech-savvy to figure them out. First, navigate to your TV’s sound settings in the menu. When you’re there, you are bound to find a list of preset sound modes. In this list, look for something with a name that sounds like “Spoken Word,” “Clear Voice,” or even “News.” These modes are specifically designed to enhance dialogue.
Another mode you might try is “Night Mode,” which lowers the decibels of high-volume aspects of movies like gunfire and sound effects, effectively amplifying the harder-to-hear sounds.
Playing around with the Equalizer settings on your TV allows you to make small adjustments to different levels of sound. If these aren’t obvious in your sound settings, look for a “User” mode, which often allows you customization. Try decreasing the bass and lower mid-range while increasing the upper mid-range and higher frequencies.
Finally, if you have a newer TV, it may have many built-in settings that automate certain aspects of the sound—often called something like “AI Sound” or “Auto Sound.” Depending on your speakers, these settings may help or hinder your overall sound quality. Try toggling them off and on to hear what they do.
Your TV Room
You may not think about the layout of your room when considering how to hear the TV better, but it has a huge impact on sound quality. If you watch in a spacious room with bare walls and hardwood floors, the sound may reverberate and linger, thereby drowning out new sounds emanating from the TV.
Similarly, if you are physically far away from the TV, the sound will diffuse on its way to you. Your viewing may also be plagued by background noises—the dishwasher, the laundry machines, or things happening outside—that muddle the sound of your show.
Changing where you watch TV, reorganizing your furniture, or asking the neighbors to quiet down may not be the most practical solutions, but it’s good at least to acknowledge the effects they have on your viewing experience.
Bluetooth Hearing Aids
Many hearing aids are Bluetooth compatible. Some can pair directly with TVs, smartphones, and computers, so your show’s audio goes directly in your ear and doesn’t even have a chance to diffuse around the room. To find out if your hearing aids can do this, ask your audiologist or—if you know the brand name and model—do a quick search on the Internet.
Regardless of what you do to alter the sound itself, closed captioning provides an alternative to listening. By law, cable television, streaming services, and movies all have the capability to provide captioning for audio content. Most of the time, you can find this setting in either the “Sound,” Display,” or “Accessibility” submenu on your TV.
Sound-Enhancing Tools to Consider
If the above tips don’t provide enough help, here are some technological solutions you can buy to improve your TV viewing experience.
Sound Bars and Stereo Systems
In cinematography, sound engineering and mixing play major roles in the production of movies and TV shows. They’re why the sudden explosion in your action flick raises the suspense of the moment and makes you jump. They’re why you’re able to hear the hushed conversation your two favorite characters are having in a bustling restaurant. They’re also why it can be hard to discern dialogue during complex or loud scenes.
With their limited capability, many built-in television speakers can’t effectively reproduce what sound engineers envisioned. Investing in a sound bar, stereo, or home theater system will bridge that gap and help sounds to pop as intended. The added depth of sound may help to clear up the dialogue for you, and many sound systems even have their own voice-enhancement settings.
Wireless Headphones and Headsets
If you don’t have Bluetooth hearing aids that pair with your television, try headphones designed for watching TV. These transmit sound directly from the television into your ears—and many models go over the ear, so you can use them in tandem with hearing aids. As an added bonus, over-ear headphones also help to block out background noise interference.
In many cases, hearing aid manufacturers will offer a small streaming box that can transmit sound from the TV directly to your hearing aids. With it, you can adjust the volume independently to give you the hearing boost you need without altering the experience for others in the room. Be careful, though: Compatibility can become an issue if you switch brands.
If you’re unsure whether this option will work for you, some hearing care providers offer rental options, so you can try before you buy.
Sound induction loops, often used in playhouses and movie theaters, are great sound-boosting tools for enhancing your viewing. By connecting an amplifier to your TV and then either running a wire around your room or wearing a receiver around your neck, you can transmit the electromagnetic signals that produce sound from your TV directly to your hearing aids.
If you have both an iPhone and compatible hearing aids, you can download the Tunity app. With Tunity, you can use your phone’s camera to scan any live television program and stream its audio directly to the phone. This app doesn’t work with online or streaming services, though.
Hack Your Phone Conversations, Too
Your TV likely isn’t the only device you have trouble hearing. If you have hearing loss and need captioning service to use the phone effectively, you are eligible for CaptionCall. Luckily, with the CaptionCall service, you don’t need to hack your phone—instead, you get the CaptionCall phone, which uses cutting-edge technology and captioning agents to show easy-to-read captions of what your callers say on its screen. Contact us today and see if you qualify. If you do, you’ll get the phone and service at no cost, and we’ll roll out the red carpet to give you the best service possible. If you’re on the go, you can also download the CaptionCall Mobile app to your iPhone and Android devices.