Almost all of my patients complain about understanding dialogue on TV. Some shows or speakers are crystal clear while other speakers sound like they have marbles in their mouth!
There are various reasons why TV isn’t as clear now as it once was. First of all, flat screen TV’s often do not have very good audio systems. The picture is great but in order to have a good looking set, the speakers are often located on the back or sides of the set.
Another reason for the variability is the sheer number of stations available to- day. In the olden days (thirty years ago!) when there were 10 channels, they came through in a relatively uniform fashion. Now with hundreds of channels to choose from, the broadcasting quality varies widely with some channels leaving a lot to be desired.
Finally, the style of programming has changed. In the past, shows were often on a set with fixed cameras. The characters spoke one at a time without a loud soundtrack. Now, shows are filmed all over the place including outside on busy streets. The soundtracks include background music and other noises to add a “realistic” flair to the audio. Actors speak over the top of one another and cameras are not necessarily fixed in place so they don’t always film the actors head on.
With all this in mind, there are vari- ous solutions that can be beneficial. First of all, figure out where the speakers on your TV are. If they are located on the back or sides of the TV then you may have to think about placement (not inside a cabinet for instance). Many patients find that connecting an external speaker or speakers is helpful. This can vary from a less expensive sound bar pur- chased at a store like Fry’s to a fancy multi speaker system by a company such as Bose. [Cost: $100-$1000+]
All of the main manufacturers have proprietary TV listening systems that will work with their newer hearing aids. These systems typically have a receiving piece worn around the neck with a transmitting piece that is plugged into the TV. The audio of the TV is delivered right into your hearing aids resulting in a much clearer sound. [Cost: Around $350]
There are non-proprietary TV listening systems that our patients can use with their TVs with or without wearing their hearing aids. These systems have some kind of receiving piece worn either around the neck or as earphones and a transmitting piece plugged into the TV. An example of this is TV Ears. [Cost: $100-$350]
Finally, there are some free things you can do including sitting closer to the TV, minimizing background noise while watching TV and using the cap- tions. The captions are available on all new TVs and can be accessed through the menu system on your remote control. All TVs are different so you’ll have to look at your user manual. [Cost: FREE]
The next time you are frustrated watching TV, know that you are not alone. If you struggle with TV, at your next follow up appointment ask your audiologist which of these options is available to you.