First, it’s important to realize that most people don’t catch everything that’s said on TV or in movies, regardless of their hearing ability. There’s a lot going on: background music, sound effects, plus whatever sounds might be happening in or around your house. And for those with hearing loss, it can be even more challenging to catch all the dialog.
For many people with hearing loss, the use of hearing aids is enough to improve their understanding of speech when watching TV. But some may still struggle, or still prefer the volume louder than the other people watching with them. Luckily there are things that can help…
When TV manufacturers design TVs, size and picture quality are top priority. Speakers and sound quality are not. Speakers are often placed on the bottom or even on the back of the TV, delivering poor sound quality. However, buying a separate speaker system can significantly improve sound quality. Of course, some systems can be expensive and large (like entire surround sound systems), but cheaper options such as a sound bar can help to improve your listening experience.
TV streamers plug into the TV through the “audio out” jacks and send the sound directly to the wearer’s ears. Most hearing aids are compatible with devices that can stream audio to hearing aids. Ask your audiologist if your hearing aids have that capability, and how to use it. Otherwise, there are generic TV streamers that use headphones, such as TV Ears.
Captions for TV or Online
Captions aren’t just for media in foreign languages. Many people, even those who have normal hearing, enjoy using captions when watching TV or movies. Online, many more videos have captions than they used to. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu should have captions for everything. Many popular YouTube channels include captions as well.
Captions at the Movies
Movie theaters are required to provide captioning services to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Usually, you can go to the customer service counter and ask for a captioning device. They often fit into the cupholder, with a box or screen that can be adjusted to sit at the bottom of your line of sight so you can read the captions while watching. Some theaters hold “open captions” screenings, where the captions are on the screen itself for everyone to read more easily.
Do YOU have difficulty understanding speech?
If you have difficulty understanding speech in TV or movies and you don’t currently wear hearing aids, it may be time to visit your doctor of audiology for a hearing test. You may be surprised to find out that you’re missing many more sounds than TV, such as the finer sounds in nature and music.
If you already wear hearing aids and still have difficulty understanding speech, you may need to update your programming.
Whatever your situation, try the solutions above to improve your hearing. And don’t forget the popcorn!
By Dr. Travis Stehouwer