Having trouble understanding television dialogue? Assistive Listening Devices can help!

Having trouble understanding television dialogue? Assistive Listening Devices can help!

Understanding television dialogue can be challenging when one has hearing loss.

Some report that a program’s soundtrack in the background can obscure the dialogue. Others report difficulty understanding fast talkers and speakers with accents while watching TV. Still others state that they feel as if the newscaster is mumbling while delivering the evening broadcast. Some choose to increase the volume on the television to compensate. This can result in discomfort for those living in the same home.

Understanding speech on television can present some challenges because the two dimensional projection on the screen limits lip reading cues that are easily identified in person. Additionally, the actors’ mouths may not synchronize with the dialogue which can pose additional challenges.

Some people may continue to experience challenges listening to TV despite wearing hearing aids. This may be a result of the degree of hearing loss and the brain’s ability to process speech. Hearing aids and amplification help, but sometimes additional devices know as Assistive Listening Devices (also known as ALDs) can also be used to enhance understanding.

Closed Captioning


One of the most widely available assistive television technologies is closed captioning.  As of July 1, 2001, the FCC requires all digital television receivers to include a closed captioning display (analog televisions have been required to contain closed captioning decoders since 1993). Your television’s closed captioning feature enables viewers to read the television dialogue along the bottom of the television’s screen in addition to listening. This feature is generally located on your television’s menu or settings options. Closed captioning may be indicated with the symbols below:

Wireless sound amplifier systems

Other options to improve understanding include sound amplifier systems for the television (commonly referred to as TV ears). These systems utilize a wireless headphone worn by the user and a transmitter that connects to the television. The transmitter sends the wireless signal to the user, allowing the user to adjust the headset volume to listen to television at a comfortable, personalized volume. These devices generally cannot be worn with hearing aids.

(Image via CNET)

Wireless streaming through hearing aids


Some hearing aids are equipped with wireless streaming capabilities.  With these devices, systems can be purchased to "stream" television dialogue directly through your hearing aids.  Many of these devices stream utilizing bluetooth technology.  These systems have the added benefit of adjusting the incoming signal to provide gain specifically for your unique hearing loss.

(Image source)

It can be frustrating to sit down to enjoy a favorite television program only to have trouble understanding the dialogue.  Utilizing these technologies may help.


Check your health insurance. As of 7-1-12 the policy we have through BCBS (federal) allows $1,250 per ear for hearing aids. This is allowed every 5 years. I have been wearing hearing aids 15 years and this is the first health insurance policy that I have ever had which helps me with my hearing devices (which to me are just as important as glasses). You will have to be examined by a licensed professional in order to get the hearing aids covered. Make sure you confirm you have this in your policy BEFORE you have the hearing aids made for you!! Also note - if you just go for a hearing test unless you have a disease or there is a medical cause for your hearing loss (not an accident which resulted in the hearing loss) the hearing test may not be covered. For example, I have meniere's disease so my hearing tests are covered as I must periodically have the tests to see how much the disease has affected my hearing. There are more and more reports that hearing loss is on the rise so it is very important that you take care of your ears just as you do your eyes and your teeth. The newer hearing aids are much better than those of yesteryear so if you have tried hearing aids in the past which were not satisfactory - give them another chance. I use wireless earphones from Radio Shack for listening to TV. If you want to get true sound many sure you don't get ''mono'' tone headsets even though they are slightly less money. Get ''stereo''. You'll be glad you did.
2/12/2013 7:21:45 AM
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