It’s the all-too-familiar scenario of watching TV with family or friends. “Can someone please turn up the volume?” That doesn’t solve the problem of not being able to hear clearly - it just turns EVERYTHING up. Unfortunately, it makes it less bearable for other people in the room who can hear quite well to want to keep watching TV with you. The solution? Clear and consistent dialogue quality outweighs the need for more volume when enjoying TV or even just listening to music.
Why is television dialogue hard to understand? Hollywood is mixing sound for drama, not clarity. We recently Googled the phase "hard to understand dialogue movies" and got 162 million hits. Hollywood is using more adventurous audio mixing techniques – often resulting in unclear dialogue.
According to a 2018 U.S. National Institutes of Health study, people with hearing aids watch TV more than six hours per day, almost an hour longer than the general population. In response, audio companies have begun offering assistive listening devices specially designed for TV watching, including TV Ears. But are they the best option for you and your type of hearing loss?
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why do people use TV Ears?
- What are TV Ears?
- How do TV Ears work?
- TV Ears features
- TV Ears reviews
- TV Ears alternatives
Why do people use TV Ears?
People with hearing aids can face challenges when watching TV that mirror the difficulties they experience in daily life, such as different voices, accents, and speaking rates, including speech that may be mumbled, whispered, or in a foreign accent. TV shows often also include music and sound effects, making it harder to distinguish between voices. In addition, most TV sets have loudspeakers oriented in a different direction than in an in-person conversation, further diffusing the audio through the room. Turning on closed captioning takes away from the experience of watching TV alone or with others. Enter TV amplification devices.
What are TV Ears?
TV amplification devices help people with hearing disabilities watch TV shows or videos without frustration. TV Ears amplifiers bring sound from the TV directly into users’ ears, increasing clarity by removing the room from the listening equation, helping to differentiate speech from background noise or reverberation. TV Ears entered the hearing assistance market in 1998 and they work in place of, or in tandem with, hearing aids to pick up TV audio. The wireless headset can be adjusted to your preferred volume and tone, while others listen at a comfortable level.
How do TV Ears work?
Unlike standard hearing aids, TV Ears more closely resemble headphones with two wireless earbuds. They are connected by a lightweight headset that hangs below the user’s chin. A transmitter is plugged into the TV, which sends the audio from the TV directly to the TV Ears headset, so users can receive the amplified audio directly in their ears. A microchip within the device extracts and amplifies speech frequencies to better clarify the dialogue.
With 2.3MHz infrared technology built into the headset, users must be near the television to receive audio. Volume is adjusted with a knob on the TV Ears headset. The headset volume is independent of the volume on the TV. Two or more people can use TV Ears headsets at the same time with a single transmitter. TV Ears can work with any TV set, as well as stereo audio playback systems.
TV Ears features
TV Ears are comfortable enough for daily use. The lightweight headset hangs below the chin, making it easier to recline or lie down while watching TV. They give users the benefit of hearing the TV at their individual volume, while others watching the same show or movie at the same time. The rechargeable battery holds a charge for four to six hours and the battery’s lifespan is one to two years, depending on the frequency of use according to the manufacturer.
However, the headset must have a clear line of sight to the transmitter while still being able to see the TV. TV Ears are a specialized type of assistive listening device with a limited use case, since they must be used with a TV set inside the home and worn on your head.
But what if you don’t want to wear a device when watching television? That’s where voice-clarifying soundbars come in. We’ll talk about those in a bit.
TV Ears Reviews
Users rated TV Ears 4.1 stars out of 5 on Amazon.com.
In a positive review, SS wrote:
“Husband: loves the clarity. Wife: loves the peace and quiet. Sanity at last. Downsized to an apartment and although they don't know it—the neighbors love it also. During set up could not get it to work following the instructions, called the company and they had us to return it. Got the replacement and the same thing happened—techs were no help but consulted YouTube postings and found that for our tv, a Samsung, one of the settings needed to be changed to be compatible with the TV ears. Voila! they work great.”
Most negative reviews focused on technical issues and lack of customer support, such as this review from TH:
“I have used a TV Ears Digital system for several years. Aside from a miserable process of replacing the battery in the headset, it worked well. However, it finally gave out and I bought the new version of what I thought was the same thing. I have an ordinary television set with cable and DVR. I installed the new system the same way I did the previous one, but when I listened to it I heard a delay between the TV Ears signal to my head phones and sound from the television. It worked fine with the mute on, but my wife might object to the lack of sound. It was unusable. When I finally got through to a tech person (they aren't in their office on weekends), he suggested a work-around with my television, but my roughly seven years old Panasonic lacked the proper setting ability. He then asked if I had bought it from Amazon (yes) and intimated that the Amazon version was inferior to one that I could have bought directly from TV Ears!
Also, every time I turn on the television I get electronic gibberish through the headphone. This is corrected by pulling the power source and re-attaching it or doing the same thing with the fiber optic cable from the television to the TV Ears device. I have no desire to go through that routine every time I want to watch television. Was this Amazon's fault also?
This is not an inexpensive device and it ought to work after making a few simple connections with little fuss. I will return it.”
TV Ears alternatives
Not everyone wants to wear a headset while watching TV. In addition, it’s easy to forget to charge the TV Ears device. If you don’t it won’t work.
The same company that produces VoiceBuds, the affordable online solution to hearing aids, also makes AccuVoice TV speakers. These dialogue-boosting TV speakers, or soundbars, use patent-pending technology to lift voices out of soundtracks, making them clear and understandable. AccuVoice works much like hearing aid technology but uses a much more advanced processor that is capable of subtle manipulation of sound, making it easier to understand dialogue on TV.
The result is uncanny. Voices simply "jump out" of the soundtrack so you can hear them clearly.