These Devices Help The Elderly Hear The TV Better (Updated 2022)
You asked and we listened! Our article on the best TV speaker is really popular, but you wanted to know about other TV listening devices for the hearing impaired. We’ve rounded up our favourite devices to help the elderly hear the TV better – from TVs to remote controls, sound bars, wireless headphones and more.
Age Related Hearing Loss
Age related hearing loss (also known as presbycusis) is a natural part of getting older, with one in two people over the age of 65 experiencing it.
As we get older, we naturally experience changes in the inner ear. This common type of hearing impairment is usually caused when the tiny hairs in the ear are damaged or die (sensorineural hearing loss), and means that the elderly can have trouble hearing the TV.
They can struggle to hear high-pitched sounds, softer voices (such as women and children) and it can be harder to hear dialogue if there is background noise on the TV programme (for example if a news reporter is talking somewhere crowded).
This is why listening devices for the hearing impaired that improve TV audio can make such a difference.
And if your parent struggles to hear clearly on the phone, then check out our article on the best amplified phones and other great easy-to-implement gadgets. Communication shouldn’t be a struggle any longer!
When The Background Noise Is Louder Than Voice On TV
Do your parents find that the background music is louder than the voice on the TV? That’s because, as people get older they are more likely to pick up the lower end of the sonic range and have trouble hearing higher frequency (like voices). When it comes to TV watching, they hear background music over dialogue.
Tweaking the audio settings on the TV could help adjust this, so it’s always worth looking at that as a first port of call. If you can change sound mode, opt for ‘news’, ‘voice’ or ‘speech’ mode.
Then, turn down the bass and increase the treble. If possible, turn off audio enhancements like Dolby surround sound. This helps people who are hearing impaired hear the TV better, and improve TV sound clarity.
People tend to just turn the TV volume up when they can’t hear – which can make the background noise even worse.
Devices To Hear TV Better
Now you understand why hearing loss affects us as we age, let’s find out what useful gadgets are available to help the elderly hear the TV better.
When it comes to devices to hear the TV better, there’s no hiding our love for the Sony Wireless TV Speaker. Designed for the hard of hearing, it gives the best TV sound by focusing on enhancing the dialogue and not just the overall sound.
I found out about it when my aunt gifted one to my dad, and have since recommended it to a number of people I know (as well as you reading this now!).
So how does it work? It’s a portable speaker that syncs with your TV and then offers personalized and localized volume.
Place it next to the person who needs some more audio help, and they can turn it up to the required volume so they can watch and enjoy their programme of choice. As the TV volume isn’t blasted up, the TV can stay at an optimum volume level for anyone else watching it.
And like I’ve already said, it isn’t just about volume. This nifty gizmo enhances dialogue so subtitles may not be necessary any more.
The wireless speaker has a good battery life (approx. 16 hours) and to charge, just place it on its plugged in dock.
Check out our full product review of the Sony Wireless TV Speaker here. You can buy this wireless TV speaker at Amazon (the cheapest option we have found). It’s neat and compact, and will slot easily in to any living room.
What is a pocket talker I hear you ask? I know, it’s an interesting name but trust me on this! This little device (it’s the size of a credit card) amplifies nearby wanted sounds whilst reducing background noise. It can be used to help your parent hear the TV, but also improves audio in conversations, so it can really help – especially if your parent is resistant to wearing a hearing aid.
It has a microphone that picks up ambient noise around you. The user wears a single headphone (there’s in-ear or over the ear options, and you have to use what that comes with the pocketalker, other headphones won’t work), and the sound comes through there. It’s easy to turn on and off and adjust the volume (there’s a dial on the side). As it’s lightweight, the pocket talker can be carried around on a lanyard (which it comes with), in a pocket or clipped onto clothing or a belt.
Best TV For The Elderly
Let’s not over-complicate things! TVs have become more and more advanced and they can be confusing to use, especially for older people.
If you’re looking for the best TV for the elderly, the newest TV model may not be the most suitable option. Speak with your parents about what they want a TV for – their answers will help you find the best option.
A larger TV screen is better for older adults than a smaller screen. We’re not saying upgrade to a 60-inch TV but if looking for a new TV, it’s worth considering a larger model – especially if they are sight impaired.
This 43 inch by Hisense is a good simple TV for the elderly option, but it also links with Alexa (read all about why we rate Alexa for helping parents stay independent).
It’s a smart TV, so has Netflix, Amazon Prime etc and connects to Freeview for BBC iPlayer, plus it has HDR for an enhanced image.
A smart TV with Alexa built in is a great option if your parent loves using their voice command service, ans this delivers! It’s great for people who struggle with fiddly remote controls as you can use the built in Alexa to turn the TV on and off, find your favourite programme, change the volume and change channels.
Plus, if your parent has a Ring wireless doorbell for security, you can connect it to the TV so they can see who is at the door.
TV Remote For Elderly
I find TV remote controls confusing – there’s so many buttons (most of which I never use). A large button TV remote could be a good non-techy solution if your parents find it hard to use too.
One option is to DIY. Use masking tape to cover up buttons that don’t need to be pressed, or stickers to highlight which buttons they should use. Then you’ve got a TV remote for the elderly for free!
If you want to buy one, there’s a few options, depending on how much detail you think your parent can cope with.
First up is this simple TV remote control. It gives me 90s vibes, before remotes offered everything under the sun (I mean, I find them confusing!).
Compatible with all TV brands (Toshiba, Sony, etc), the pared back design features on/off, volume and mute, numbers and up/down for the channels, info (to show a programme synopsis) and an AV button.
How to sync universal remote to TV
Wondering how to connect it to the TV? There’s two ways, direct code entry and auto programming.
Direct code entry
The simple remote comes with a hefty booklet featuring the TV models it works with (or do a quick Google if you can’t find your parent’s model listed). You need to:
- Put AA batteries in the remote and turn on the TV you want to sync with.
- Press down the TV button on the remote control – you’ll want to keep your finger on it.
- Whilst pressing down, enter the code using the numbers on the remote.
- Only take your finger off the TV button when the power button on the television lights back up (it may go from on to off and then back on again).
- Ta-da, syncing complete!
To sync the one-for-all remote with the TV without using a code you:
- Put AA batteries in the remote and turn on the TV you want to sync with.
- Press and release the TV button on the universal remote.
- Then press the power button and TV button at the same time. Keep it down until the power light on the actual TV turns off and back on again.
- Start watching TV!
Simple TV remote
For a simple remote control, they don’t get much easier than this big button remote (and it’s great value, usually at just over £10).
The enhanced buttons are just for power, mute, and up and down for volume and channels. Plus they’re large so can easily be seen and pressed.
Like most remotes, this works by sending infra-red signals to the TV it is paired with – so it won’t work with a freeview or Sky box for example which work on bluetooth.
To sync it, you’ll need the existing remote (so don’t get rid of it just yet!). Place them both on a table about 2 to 5 cm apart, with the sending end of the original at the receiving end of the new remote.
Press the power and channel up buttons on the new device simultaneously until the red LED lights up. It will then start blinking.
Then press and hold the button on the new remote that you want to program until the red LED stops blinking and stays red constantly. Repeat this for each button.
Alexa TV Control
Amazon Alexa can make life easier AND safer for elderly people (we’ve written all about how your parents and you can cleverly use this smart speaker).
When it comes to watching TV, Alexa helps your elderly parent do this without having to use a remote control. If they have a smart TV and Alexa, it can be synced to easily control by voice recognition. You can also use Alexa to amend the bass and volume and turn on closed captions (we write more about what closed caption means and how to use them below).
There are so many different Alexa models to choose from but we recommend the Echo Show which has a screen and allows for a drop-in video call. As your parents get older, this functionality can become even more important.
Find out more about how to sync Alexa with your TV in this Hello Tech article.
TV Headphones For Hard Of Hearing
If your parent is happy to wear headphones then these are a good solution to listen to TV without disturbing others. They can turn the volume up as loud as needed, or change the bass and continue to watch TV uninterrupted.
Wireless TV headphones are a great device to hear the TV better and should work regardless of the make and model of TV your parent has.
How Do Wireless Headphones Work?
Wireless headphones for TV watching come with a charging base and connect to the TV with a 3.5mm jack or cable. Also known as radio frequency headphones for TV, they have a range of around 100 metres unobstructed, so your parent can easily hear the TV even from a distance (for example, if they wanted to listen to the news on the TV in the living room whilst eating breakfast in the kitchen).
If your parent is happy with wearing them, then wireless TV headphones for the elderly are a good solution. Note though that your parent may feel detached from their environment when wearing them (as they block other noise out) and so they can take a while to get used to. Here are two options we like.
Some of the best wireless TV headphones for the hard of hearing are these by Avantree. They are comfortably padded, noise cancelling headphones. Easy to set up and lightweight, they enhance dialogue and cut out background noise.
A slightly cheaper (but just as good) option are these by Simolio. They are simple and straightforward to use, and block out sound well – good if your parent watches TV on high at the annoyance of their spouse or neighbours!
It’s also possible to find Bluetooth headphones for TV but check first that the TV has Bluetooth and is compatible. Bluetooth hearing amplifiers do not have the range of the wireless television headphones so your parent will need to be happy staying in front of the screen.
Best Soundbar For Dialogue Clarity
What is a soundbar? Well, it’s another device that can help the elderly hear the TV better. Wide and slim in shape, it contains several individual speakers placed side by side to project audio and improve TV dialogue clarity. You place the bar speaker next to the TV and it can offer virtual surround sound without the need for wires.
For people who are hard of hearing, surround sound isn’t usually the best option. Whilst it’s great for people who want the home cinema experience, a sound bar will enhance all sounds (including background noise).
Which is why, in the spirit of honesty, we’re more in favour of the above options for the best TV sound for the hard of hearing.
However, if you’re looking for the best soundbar for the hearing impaired, we do have some suggestions!
If you’re looking for a good voice clarifying soundbar, we like the Megacra soundbar. It has a separate dialogue setting to enhance voices, it’s good value and it comes in different sizes depending on your parents’ TV size.
The TV Ears headset does what the name suggests! These TV headphones for the hearing impaired act as ’TV ears’, reducing background noise while ensuring a clear sound. The devices work for mild, moderate and severe hearing loss.
The TV Ears digital headset system comes with ear buds so you need to make sure that your parent is happy to wear them (as opposed to over the ear headphones).
Apps For The Hearing Impaired
There are some innovative apps out there which can remove background noise and improve audio clarity for the hearing impaired.
Chatable (available on iPhone and Android) works by providing noise cancellation and voice amplification.
It turns the smartphone into a listening device and hearing amplifier. You need to pair the smartphone with headphones (such as those recommended above) and it will amplify speech and remove background noises.
People who are hard of hearing can use Chatable to watch TV, or during conversations.
Free to download, it offers 100 minutes free usage per month (a subscription is needed after this).
You might well ask what does closed caption mean or what is the difference between subtitles and closed captions?
Well, TV closed caption is intended for hard of hearing viewers (when subtitles are meant for people who don’t understand the language being spoken). Closed captions include the dialogue spoken as well as other audio sounds included in the programme. Giving the hearing impaired viewer a thorough understanding of what they are watching. They can be used on their own, or even better, with a TV listening device.
All modern TVs are built with closed captioning. It’s easy to turn on, but as each TV is different we’d recommend you reading the instructions! You can also change the size of the closed captions (on normal TV, Amazon Prime, Netflix etc) but again it’s best to read specific instructions for this.
No one wants to struggle when watching television, especially now that we’re spending more time at home. We hope you’ve found this article on the best devices to hear the TV better useful. At ElWell, we want to keep providing you with information so that you can best support your elderly parents. Let us know what you think below, or even better, what topics you’d like us to write about next! Thank you for your support.
From wireless speakers to headphones and more there are options to suit all ears and preferences.
The Sony wireless handy TV speaker pairs with the TV and enhances dialogue (as opposed to all sounds, like a soundbar). It can be moved next to the person who needs it, and they can turn the volume to their preferred level without it affecting the viewing quality for others in the room.