By Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D.
One of the most common complaints I hear is “It is difficult for me to hear and understand what is being said on the television”. Simply turning up the volume on the TV can cause issues for two reasons. First, the quality of the sound may deteriorate as the volume is raised. This will depend on the quality and condition of the built-in television speaker. Second, the level of the sound may become an issue for other individuals who wish to watch the television with you. Wearing assistive listening devices for television has several advantages over turning up the overall volume. In today’s world there are many technologies that can truly help those who have this complaint:
The most common solution is a hearing instrument. Most hearing aids now have features for reducing background noise and amplifying signals coming from the front of the wearer. Simply by wearing your hearing aids and directing your attention at the television, you may find that you can understand the dialog much better than before you wore hearing aids. If you hear some improvement but would like to see if it can be optimized, ask your hearing healthcare professional if he or she can create a special program in your hearing aids to help you hear the television better. If you have a dedicated program for television in your hearing aids, you will need to know how to switch your hearing aids to that program when you are ready to watch television, and how to switch it back to your normal program when you are finished watching TV. Also, individuals with a hearing instrument may be able to stream sound from their television directly to their hearing aids or to a streaming device using Bluetooth technology.
Assistive listening devices are another solution for hearing the television. Assistive listening devices for television typically consist of a base that plugs directly into the headphone jack of the television set and a delivery system involving a pair of headphones or your hearing aids. These devices are wireless and use infrared, FM or Bluetooth technology. These devices have several advantages over turning up the overall volume on your TV set:
• They send the sound directly to the headphones or hearing aids. This minimizes the interference of any background noise in the room.
• The direct delivery of the auditory signal to the hearing aid or headphones improves the overall clarity of sound; this improved clarity of sound helps with the understanding.
• The individual with hearing loss can operate the signal volume coming from the television independently of the volume produced by the television’s speakers.
• Those who experience different degrees of hearing ability can enjoy television together.
Personal hearing loops can be used at home for the TV. A wire is installed around the perimeter of the listening area. Anyone inside the looped area with a telecoil in their hearing instrument can simply choose their t-coil program and the sound from the TV will be transmitted directly into the hearing aids! Background noise is reduced and the volume control on the hearing aid or the loop amplifier can be used to adjust the volume. The TV sound is processed by the hearing aids according to each person’s hearing loss. The loop can be used by as many people who can fit inside the looped area and headphones are not needed. Others can view the TV at their preferred volume or the TV can be muted.
Another useful assistive listening device are specialty speakers. Some sound bars can be adjusted to help with certain types of hearing loss. There are personal speakers that can be located nearby and controlled by the individual with hearing loss. There is also a speaker system that can actually be programmed for a specific hearing loss.
Closed captions are very helpful when the audio portion of a television signal just isn’t clear enough, even for those who don’t have a hearing loss. Closed captioned television allows you to both hear and see speech on the television. This is a great option that can allow everyone to fully understand what is being said on a television show. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires all digital televisions with screens greater than 13″ to offer closed captioning. This is great for people with hearing loss because it most likely exists on your television. Look for a button on your remote control with a CC icon. This button usually turns the captions on and off. It can take a little time to get accustomed to the captioning running across your television screen, but those who use it regularly find it improves their ability to hear and understand what is being said on the television.
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Dr. Noël Crosby, Au.D., owner and audiologist at Advanced Hearing Solutions in Englewood, FL is a licensed professional whose 26 year career has been devoted to helping people of all ages hear and understand more clearly. Dr. Crosby received her BS and MS degrees from FSU and her Doctorate in Audiology from UF. Her credibility as an authority grew during her tenure as the Director of Audiology at the Silverstein Institute in Sarasota, FL from 1991-1998. Today, in addition to managing a successful audiology practice, Dr. Crosby is involved in creating hearing loss awareness through her jewelry and accessory company AuDBling.com. She has served and is serving on various professional boards and committees and was president of the Florida Academy of Audiology in 2000 and 2010. She has been married to Michael for 23 years and has one daughter.