MAY IS Better Hearing Month, so this is an ideal
time to cover a topic that affects many people:
how to best hear your television.
Those who are hard of hearing know all too
well that it can be a struggle to hear TV audio
clearly. For some, the sound is too low; for others,
it’s distorted or perhaps not well-mixed for dialogue, music and sound effects. Turning up the
volume can make the audio even more garbled—
not to mention disturbing to others who don’t
want the TV to be as loud as you do. (My parents
have argued about this for years!)
Sound bars, which amplify your TV’s audio,
can help. But there are several other helpful
solutions, including modern, sophisticated hearing aids that work with TVs. Here’s a look.
New hearing aids
Hearing aids are getting smaller and more
powerful and enjoy longer battery life than previous models. But one of the most exciting new
features of many of today’s models is integrated
Bluetooth connectivity, which means they can be
used to clearly hear sound from TVs and other
What’s required for most hearing aids is a
small Bluetooth streaming box that connects to
the TV. This device acts as a middleman of sorts.
Whenever you walk within range of this small
transmitter box (about ;; feet, on average), you’ll
be able to hear the TV in your hearing aids—loud
and clear, and without any echoes or delays. And
yes, you can adjust the TV’s volume on your hearing aids independently from those of others in
the room via a small remote control or an app.
Bluetooth streamers can also be used to
amplify audio from other devices, such as your
tablet, MP; player or stereo system. That means
you can watch Netflix on your iPad, or listen to
audiobooks and podcasts on your MP; player, or
hear your favorite music on your stereo.
Apple supports some Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids that can communicate directly with the
iOS operating system that powers iPhone, iPad
and iPod Touch devices. These hearing aids might
be labeled “Made for iPhone.”
Other easy options
There are other assistive listening devices,
such as headphones that use wireless technology
like Bluetooth, radio frequency or infrared.
Typically, these headphones work with a base that
plugs directly into the TV’s headphone jack and
then transmits the signal to the headphones (with
many TVs, this won’t mute the main speaker, but
some models give you this option). Most of these
headphones go over the ears; therefore, they can
be used with hearing aids.
Some Bluetooth-enabled smart TVs don’t
require a base station at all. That means you may
be able to sync your Bluetooth headphones with
the TV itself. While the setup process varies
depending on the TV manufacturer, in most cases
you open your TV’s settings or accessories menu,
select Bluetooth options and then set it to pairing
mode. Next you put your Bluetooth headphones
into pairing mode, as well.
Finally, don’t forget about closed captioning
for TV shows and movies, as it can help individuals who are hard of hearing or deaf better understand what’s being said onscreen. According to
the Federal Communications Commission,
Congress requires video programming distributors—such as cable operators, broadcasters,
satellite distributors and other multichannel video programming distributors—to provide closed captioning for
their TV programs.
The good news
Between new hearing aids that
work with Bluetooth streaming boxes,
Along with medical breakthroughs, such as hearing implants,
perhaps one day soon there will be
teeny Bluetooth hearing aids that
don’t require a streaming box for
watching TV or talking hands-free on
a smartphone. And then, maybe we’ll
have true domestic tranquility. C
Marc Saltzman, a leading
high-tech reporter, contributes to more than three dozen
appears on radio and TV,
and is the author of more
than ;; books. He’s on
Twitter at @marc_saltzman
Saltzman will answer selected
questions in this column.
He regrets that unpublished
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Now hear this!
How to really hear your TV
The Hearing Aid Center in your
local warehouse is a source
for the latest hearing aids
and accompanying streaming
boxes. Hearing aid technicians
can help you with questions
about linking your particular
hearing aid with your TV. Also,
Costco sells a variety of TVs
in the warehouses and on
Costco.com that are Bluetooth-enabled and can work
with certain hearing aids.
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