The government estimates that 48 million Americans live with hearing loss in at least one ear — including about a third of those ages 65 to 74 and nearly half of those older than 75. So you can bet many older adults struggle to hear the television clearly.
Whether you’re the person with hearing loss or the person sitting next to a loved one while watching TV, you know that turning up the volume isn’t always the best solution. In fact, doing so not only can disturb others but can actually make the audio more garbled, especially if the sound is not well mixed among dialog, music and sound effects.
The good news is that solutions are available. Which one you should choose depends on factors such as the severity of hearing loss and what’s most comfortable for you.
Soundbars add depth, not just volume
Soundbars are horizontal speakers that sit just above or below the television. They are a popular option to amplify audio. After all, televisions are getting so thin these days, how good can you expect pancake-shaped speakers to sound?
The separate device houses multiple speakers, and some models even simulate a surround-sound-like movie theater experience. On the whole, their sound is similar to what you would get if you combined an audio-video receiver with multiple speakers throughout a room — but for less money, less space and with less technical know-how required.
What’s more, many soundbars come with a wireless subwoofer to place elsewhere in the room. It delivers low-end bass — like feeling the rumble of a helicopter or roar of a dinosaur. Nearly all new models have integrated Bluetooth technology, allowing you to stream music to the soundbar from your smartphone, tablet or computer.
The Zvox family of soundbars, from $99, has a patent-pending technology called AccuVoice that lifts voices out of soundtracks to make them clearer and more understandable, according to the company. Zvox says this works much like hearing aid technology, using a more advanced processor that’s capable of subtle manipulation of sound.