Understanding speech is one of the biggest day-to-day challenges for people with hearing loss.
This starts with face-to-face conversation, although non-verbal cues can help provide context for better comprehension.
The real difficulties, however, come into play when we no longer have as many of those visual cues, or any at all. Hearing loss is a major inhibiting factor when trying to understand what people are saying on a TV, for example, and even more so when it comes to venues that are strictly audio – e.g. listening to a podcast or the radio.
In this article we will focus on the challenges presented for people with hearing loss when watching a video, movie or TV program. We’ll explore the challenges presented by hearing loss, the factors at play and how to improve the television viewing experience.
Why Watching TV Or Videos Is Challenging for People with Hearing Loss
For the majority of people, watching a movie, television program or video is generally a pleasurable experience – or at least one that doesn’t bring about frustration.
Many people with hearing loss, however, experience TV or movie viewing in a much different and far less satisfying way.
That’s equally true for the other people in their lives, namely family, who themselves have probably grown tired and frustrated being subject to loud TV volumes (which get louder as time goes by and their loved one’s hearing gets worse and worse).
Dialogue is one of the more challenging aspects of TV and movies to pick up for those whose hearing is deteriorating. This can be due to a number of factors, such as:
- Background noise in the viewer’s home or surroundings (kitchen clamour, kids playing, a fan running, etc.)
- Subpar TV speaker quality / audio output
- Poor broadcast / streaming quality
- Inferior sound design by the video content creators (e.g. sound editing, mic issues, etc.)
Other audio on the TV program can also be difficult to pick up for someone with hearing loss. That includes background sounds, music, the sounds of the venue at a live sporting event, and so on.
Like more and more people are apt to do nowadays, you may be watching TV, movies or video on a monitor connected to a Mac or PC, or your viewing experience could be delivered via smartphone, tablet, etc. For our purposes here, however, we’ll largely refer to a television as the operating example.
Modern TVs and Accessories Are Helping to Create a Better Audio Experience
Thankfully, modern TVs are being equipped with more and more options designed to improve your viewing and audio experience.
Here are some features and options to look for when purchasing a new TV – or to see whether your existing TV already has.
- It amplifies the dialogue and turns down the background noise
- Different TV brands call this by different names
- LG has “Clear Voice”
- Samsung has a different Clear Voice feature
- Apple TV calls their dialogue enhancer “Reduce Loud Sounds”
- Some TV brands have “Dialogue” settings while others have “Dolby” settings
- Some TVs are better at this than others, of course
- It’s worth doing some research to find the best products on the market right now for people with hearing loss
If you’re not sure, go through your settings and try to find anywhere you can turn up the dialogue audio and turn down the background noise. If your TV doesn’t have this option pre-set, try doing it manually. Try turning up the mid- and upper-range frequencies while turning down the bass.
Admittedly, this process may take some trial and error to find the right TV sound settings for your hearing needs.
Either in addition to or instead of adjusting your audio, there are always closed captions to consider.
Most TVs nowadays have pretty good closed caption options, and the quality and reliability of closed captioning from the source (TV network, streaming service, studio, etc.) are getting better over time.
Streaming services in particular, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, have become very accurate and helpful for closed captioning for their content in recent years. This has been a blessing for many people with hearing loss.
Headphones and Speakers for Better Audio Quality and Hearing TV/Movie/Video Sound
If you still really want to hear the dialogue, look into some wireless headphones, or consider a sound bar or, even better, a surround-sound speaker system.
The Bose soundbar has a setting just for dialogue and gets great reviews, but Samsung, Vizio and others all have a setting for dialogue or speech and all of them work remarkably well.
These sound bars contain one wire that plugs into the back of your set, and they can be placed on a shelf in front of your TV. For most people with hearing loss, this solution should be more than enough.
What about a big elaborate system with separate subwoofers and satellite speakers? Unless you are (or were) an audiophile, it’s not a must… in fact, it might not really help more than a simple soundbar like the one above.
And how about moving the speaker closer to you? Or using headphones? Well, bringing the audio output closer to you can help you hear and understand it.
Just be sure that if you’re using headphones, you don’t turn up the volume too loud so that it could further damage your hearing. Having said that, there are many great headphones on the market today, particularly the over-the-ear variety as opposed to earbuds. Many offer noise cancellation. Trial and error is a likely scenario here, too.
A Counterintuitive Point About TV Volume and Hearing Loss
When trying to understand what’s being said on your TV, turning it up to max volume doesn’t always help you.
Ironically, this may make it even harder to distinguish dialogue from background noise. This can be one of those things in life when “less is more,” as they say.
Try different technological adjustments, and try to limit other noises around your home.
This way you can focus on understanding the conversations, and not try to comprehend many different types of sound at once.
How Hearing Aids Can Help Your TV Experience
When we’re discussing amplification and clarity of TV audio, one valuable resource is a hearing aid.
Admittedly, some people with mild hearing loss who are still in the beginning stages of coming to terms with it (somewhere between denial and acceptance), recognizing one’s deterioration of hearing can be difficult and take time.
If you’re in that boat, you’re not alone. And it’s perfectly okay to start by making adjustments to the sound and audio devices in your life.
Over time, however, one’s hearing loss is likely to deteriorate further (it will not get better, sorry). Eventually, in order to hear not just TV or audio from devices but all the sounds of the world around us, many people with hearing loss seek the assistance of a hearing aid.
If you have a hearing impairment, wearing hearing aids will help you to hear the television better. Newer hearing aid models even have specialized TV settings to help with the clarity even more. Some hearing aids will automatically connect to your TV via Bluetooth.
TV and other devices would, however, be the icing on the cake in terms of the many benefits that a hearing aid provides.
Hearing aids have helped millions of people by restoring the sounds of their world, from conversations with friends and family, to interaction in the workplace, to the other dialogues and goings-on in our day-to-day lives.
To find out more about how hearing aids could help you, and to get your free hearing test, get in touch with a NexGen Hearing clinic in BC near you.