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

January 28, 2013

By Brenna Carroll

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.