Updated: January 13, 2017
Do you find yourself struggling to hear the TV, or understand what is being said at the movie theater?
Are you constantly reaching for the TV remote to turn the volume up?
Then you might benefit from one of the assistive listening devices (ALDs) available for watching TV and movies.
5 Best Hearing Devices for TV
Even a mild hearing loss can cause difficulty understanding the television. Many people find themselves trying to raise the volume on the TV to hear it better. But, that can cause some disagreement between you and others in your household.
The good news is that there are several TV listening devices that can be used to help make watching TV easier and more enjoyable.
Some are used in conjunction with hearing aids and others can be used without the need for hearing aids. These devices help to eliminate the interference of the background noise and allow the wearer to adjust the volume independently of what others in the room hear.
The 5 best hearing devices to help improve your television are (in no particular order):
- Wireless Headphones for TV
- Wireless Streaming Devices From TV to Hearing Aids
- Loop Systems
- Wireless Hearing Aid Streaming
- Home Theater Systems (Vocal Clarity Devices)
Below you will find some more details about each of these devices, along with an example of each device.
1. Wireless Headphones for TV
This is the best option for those with hearing loss who do not wear hearing aids. (Definitely check out the ZVOX AccuVoice below too!)
Even if you just have a slight hearing loss, TV assistive listening devices can be used to make the TV volume more comfortable and clear.
Wireless TV headphones help to make the TV sound more clear by creating a direct wireless stream from the television to the wearer’s ears. It eliminates any interference of background noises in the room.
They consist of two parts, a transmitter base that plugs into the headphone jack of the television and a headphone receiver that wirelessly picks up the signal and is worn by the listener. One of the most common TV headphone device are TV Ears, which use an infrared wireless signal.
There are controls on the headphone portion which allow the user to adjust the volume of the TV independent of what is coming out of the TV speakers.
As an alternative to TV Ears, you can also try this product by Sennheiser:
Sennheiser SET840 -TV RF Stereo TV Assistive Listening Headphones System
Other wireless headphones use either a radio frequency signal or Bluetooth signal to create the wireless transmission from the TV to the headset.
There is not necessarily one transmission signal type that is better than the other. It will depend on which system is compatible with your television set. See two examples below:
Sennheiser RS120 On-Ear Wireless RF Headphones with Charging Dock
(This is an example of wireless headphones that use radio frequency)
GOgroove Bluetooth TV Headphones
(This is an example of Wireless headphones that utilize Bluetooth technology)
2. Wireless Streaming Devices From TV to Hearing Aids
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 programs to help with the clarity even more. But, sometimes hearing aids alone are not enough to make TV completely intelligible.
That is when wireless hearing aid accessories that work in conjunction with your current hearing aids are useful. There are a few different methods for wirelessly connecting your hearing aids to your television. You will need to choose the system that works with your specific brand of hearing aid. Be sure to talk to your hearing healthcare professional to get the correct device for you!
Starkey Surf Link Media
(This is an example from Starkey called Surf Link Media)
3. Loop Systems
A loop system is a magnetic field that is placed around the room or in a personal neckloop worn around the listener’s neck. It can connect to the audio output of the television set or pick up the sound coming directly from the television’s speakers. It works through the listener’s telecoil setting on the hearing aids to transmit the TV audio wirelessly to the hearing aids.
The benefit of a loop system is that the hearing aids do not need to be wireless for it to function. They only need to be telecoil compatible. This is helpful for those people with older model hearing aids.
When watching the TV you can turn your hearing aids to the telecoil program to listen to the TV through the loop system. Full room loop systems are becoming more common in public buildings, theatres, and even grocery stores. Some people are now choosing to install these loop systems into their living rooms to avoid having to wear the neckloop portion. Room loop systems should be professionally installed.
Sennheiser RR 840 S-9
4. Wireless Hearing Aid Streaming
The majority of hearing aids now sold are wireless hearing aids. Wireless hearing aid technology means that not only can the hearing aids communicate with each other, but they can also wirelessly communicate with other external devices such as televisions, smartphones, and computers.
The method by which the wireless streaming occurs will vary from hearing aid to hearing aid. Some work through Bluetooth, while others may work through FM connections.
Most wireless hearing aids connect to the television through an intermediary device. This device can either be worn around the neck or seated near the listener or television. This intermediary device receives the hardwired or wireless audio signal from the TV before sending it to the hearing aids via another wireless connection.
The hearing aid wearer can switch to the wireless streaming mode with just a press of a button and the TV setting can be customized.
These wireless hearing aid accessories can be purchased through your hearing healthcare professional. There is a different model needed for each individual hearing aid brand.
Phonak TV Link
(This is an example of a wireless TV device)
With the emergence of the Made for iPhone “Smart” hearing aids, direct Bluetooth streaming from the television to the hearing aids should be available in the near future.
5. Home Theater Systems (Vocal Clarity Devices)
As of right now the only home theater system (we recommend) which drastically improves sound clarity is the ZVOX AccuVoice SoundBase. (You can check out a comparison chart of the others here)
The ZVOX SoundBase 450is a revolutionary surround sound system design. It produces rich, room-filling home theater sound without all the clutter of a traditional surround sound system.
It’s honestly as simple as plugging it into your television, and activating the AccuVoice technology. We were shocked how significantly it improves clarity. You can check out our full review here with pictures and a lot more details.
ZVOX AccuVoice SoundBase 450
Top 2 Hearing Devices for the Movies
1. Assistive Listening Headset
When hearing aids are not enough, or for those who do not yet wear hearing aids, assistive listening devices can be worn during a movie to amplify the audio, similar to wireless headphones worn for the TV. This will allow the user to adjust the volume of the movie independent of what the rest of the audience hears.
Assistive listening headsets can be requested at the customer service desk for most major movie theaters.
Just check out these “assistive moviegoing” options from AMC listed here.
Update 2/10/16: We finally tested a pair at our local Regal theater. Check out our review below.
It took less than five minutes to speak with someone at the customer service desk inside Regal, and get set up with an assistive listening headset. Here’s what it looked like:
From what I could tell the device is essentially a Bluetooth pack that is synced to your specific movie’s audio. The device is equipped with volume controls, just like any headset.
The main issue I had was with the headphones themselves. They’re typical on-ear headphones, with no noise-cancelling features. This meant the headphone audio was competing with the surround sound in the theater along with other ambient noises.
As you can see from the picture above, any standard jack headphones would work.
I think the device could be useful, but I’d probably recommending bringing a headset that you are comfortable wearing and preferably noise cancelling. If you wear hearing aids or other hearing devices you can check out our recommended headsets.
2. Personal Closed Captioning Systems
Closed captioning systems are written visual cues relayed to the user in real-time with the movie. The written captions show the dialogue, narration, and sound effects during the movie. Only the user of the device will see the captions displayed on a small screen connected to the chair, or to glasses.
However, not all movies and/or movie showtimes are closed captioned. If you plan on relying on closed captioning, it is best to check with the theater prior to the movie.
If you typically attend a Regal Cinemas, check out this video below that details their closed captioning system.
There is no need to avoid the movie theater or get frustrated with not being able to enjoy the show. The assistive listening headset and/or closed captioning systems available at most theaters can help improve your movie-going experience.