Do you need to use TV subtitles more than you used to? It’s not uncommon for those of us 55 or older to find that understanding dialog on TV has become a bit of a challenge. For me, if I’m watching a program with characters who have thick accents, I can have a hard time understanding them and I have to rely on TV subtitles.
The good news is there are several simple solutions that can help you continue to enjoy watching TV, without using TV subtitles.
Before running you through some of the best options and giving you their pros and cons, let’s first have a look at why our hearing tends to deteriorate as we grow older.
Why Does Our Hearing Deteriorate As We Age?
Our hearing tends to get worse as we age. In some cases, hearing aids are needed to be able to communicate with loved ones and to get through basic daily chores.
There are many reasons why our hearing typically deteriorates with age – and it can sometimes be accelerated as a result of an underlying illness.
Hearing loss occurs when the tiny hair cells inside our ears are damaged and stop functioning. These hair cells are unable to regrow after they are severely damaged or die, so most hearing loss is permanent.
There are several factors which may contribute to age related hearing loss, including frequent exposure to loud sounds (including music or exhaust noises), family history, and lifestyle choices like smoking and your diet.
Furthermore, some diseases, such as diabetes, can result in hearing loss, as can certain treatments (for example, chemotherapy drugs.)
Why TV Subtitles Aren’t Always a Good Solution
For people with impaired hearing, TV subtitles can make it much easier to follow and understand a TV show or a movie, but they aren’t always a good solution.
Firstly, as our eyesight also tends to worsen with age, it can be difficult for some Boomers to read TV subtitles, even if they are wearing their glasses, as they disappear after just a few seconds to keep up with the dialogue.
Furthermore, even if keeping up with the TV subtitles isn’t necessarily a problem, many people simply find watching with subtitles to be distracting.
Lastly, although most TV shows and movies do now come with TV subtitles, some don’t – or the subtitles may be poorly written or inaccurate – especially if you’re watching content that was produced a few decades ago.
How Can I Eliminate The Need For TV Subtitles?
Aside from subtitles, there are a few other potential solutions which can help people with poor hearing enjoy their favorite TV shows and films.
Most TVs’ audio settings can be configured and tweaked to suit your needs and preferences. And, for some Boomers, changing your TV’s audio settings can help you understand dialogue and follow a movie or series much more closely, making the whole experience more enjoyable.
Some Boomers are often hesitant to start playing around with their TV’s settings as they are scared of messing things up, but the good news is you can always easily reset all of the settings to default and then start again.
To get started, you will need to access your TV’s menu (there is usually a dedicated button on your remote control for this) and then go to “settings.”
From there, you will be able to access “audio settings” or “sound”, and then you can make various changes to suit your needs. Some TVs also have a mode specifically designed for people with poor hearing, so if that’s an option for you, giving that a go should be your first port of call.
If it’s not helpful, then you can try tweaking and experimenting with some of the audio settings yourself until you find a good configuration. It’s often a good idea to try lowering the base and increasing the sound of the mid to high frequency sounds, as age related hearing loss typically occurs towards the higher end of the frequency range.
Another useful audio setting that some TVs have is a “night” mode. This mode essentially flattens out the volume of the various different sounds so there’s less of a difference between the loudest and quietest sounds in a film or TV show.
This, in turn, allows you to increase the overall volume without having to worry about loud noises (such as shouting or an explosion) on TV disturbing others in your household or even your neighbors.
If your TV has Bluetooth capabilities, you should consider buying a pair of wireless headphones, as it can be much easier to hear and understand dialogue through headphones or earphones than through your TV’s built-in speakers.
Some models have a speech enhancement mode which aims to make it easier to understand dialogue, but even more basic wireless headphones can still make a big difference.
And, if your TV doesn’t have Bluetooth capabilities, you can purchase a transmitter which you can use as an intermediary to connect a pair of wireless headphones to your TV.
Here are a couple excellent Wireless Headphone options for you:
Sound Bar Speakers
Sound bar speakers can help improve TV sound and make it easier for seniors to understand dialogue.
Some models have speech enhancement features which aim boost the sound of frequencies in the range of dialogue, so, in a way, this works in a similar manner to the “night” mode that some TVs have.
Some soundbar speakers cost close to $1,000, though there are some models, such as Zvox’s AccuVoice AV200 TV Speaker, which cost a couple of hundred dollars. This particular model is designed to make it easier to understand dialogue, so it could be worth a shot if you’ve tried some of the other solutions outlined in this article but are yet to find one that works well for you.
Here are a couple excellent and affordable sound bar speaker options:
Which is Best For Me?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to this question and it’s likely you’ll have to try out a few different solutions until you find one that works well for you.
Having said that, your first port of call should be to adjust your TV’s audio settings to see if you can make it easier to understand dialogue that way, as it’s free and takes just a few minutes to try out.
If this doesn’t help you out, you should then consider trying out a pair of wireless headphones or sound bar speakers. Ideally, you should go for a model which is specifically designed to improve dialogue intelligibility.
However, as some of these models can be quite pricey, you may want to give a cheaper model a try first.
Addressing any difficulties you have with understanding dialogue in your favorite TV shows and movies is well worth the effort and money, but it’s important to understand that it will often take some experimenting to find a good solution for you.
Subtitles can be an effective solution for many of us, but if you struggle to keep up, you should consider some of the alternatives discussed in this article.
A Quick Summary
- Our hearing tends to deteriorate as we age, especially toward the top end of the frequency range, making it increasingly difficult for us to understand dialogue in movies and TV shows.
- There are many factors that can contribute to age-related hearing loss, including regular exposure to loud sounds, family history and certain diseases, like diabetes.
- Subtitles can help you understand and continue to enjoy your favorite films and TV series even as your hearing worsens, but they aren’t always a good option.
- For instance, if you struggle to keep up with the subtitles or if a show you want to watch doesn’t have subtitles, you’ll need to think about finding another solution.
- Adjusting your TV’s audio settings can be an effective and quick way to improve dialogue intelligibility without spending a dime.
- If your TV has a “night” mode or a mode specifically configured for people with impaired hearing, then giving them a try should be your first port of call.
- Alternatively, you should consider buying some soundbar speakers or a bar of wireless headphones.
- Some models are specifically designed to improve dialogue intelligibility, but even the more generic models can also make it easier to understand dialogue on TV.