Solutions for better TV sound and understandable dialogue (Week 7, 2024)

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 7, 2024

Q. I need help with television sound. My 95-year-old father has terrible hearing and is mostly dissatisfied with hearing aids, which he does not currently wear. About 6 years ago he got Bose Hearphones and they worked well. Recently someone in his condo complained to him that his TV was too loud, so we needed to take additional steps. We got some Silensys headphones which he actually wears over his Hearphones and everything is good when it works, but the Hearphones are discontinued and the Silensys headphones don’t always connect to his TV’s Bluetooth. It also takes going through a number of menus to get connected and given his age, it would be nice to avoid this. It seems like more of a home theater solution would be preferable. Might there be one elegant solution that will help my dad navigate all of this?

-J.M., Minneapolis, MN

A. This is yet another example of the most common subject sent in to this column, the problem of poor television sound and dialogue that is hard to understand. Your father’s problems are not only a result of his advanced age and diminished hearing, but because most modern televisions do a horrible job reproducing sound, especially the voices and dialogue, which the Bose Hearphones were designed to help with.

If your father is 95 with terrible hearing you should definitely consult a good audiologist, if you have not done so already. If the Bose Hearphones were effective initially there may be hearing aids available now that would satisfy him. I am a bit surprised that the headphone/Hearphone combo worked because such a configuration will often lead to audible feedback between the two devices, and I do not recommend others try it.

My first suggestion is to turn on the television subtitles. Being able to read along as he watches will help immensely, and words that are not discernible by hearing alone will then be recognized. Research has shown an increasing number of young people (as young as in their 20s) are turning on the subtitles for exactly this reason.

ZVOX is the industry leader for products that help everyone hear their televisions better. The patented AccuVoice feature lifts voices up above the soundtrack to make dialogue easier to understand, and is available in ZVOX headphones, soundbars and TV Speakers. The TV Speaker is the most popular option because of the low cost, effectiveness, simplicity and small form factor. Connection is simple with a single digital audio cable, and the small size compared to a full-sized soundbar actually helps with dialogue because low bass frequencies can drown out the voices. Since you are looking for a single product that is a simple, elegant solution, I would start there.

You can currently buy a ZVOX AV120 AccuVoice TV Speaker at an unheard-of price worthy of an impulse purchase. The AV120 with bronze grill is regularly $149.99, but is on sale for $49.99 with a 60-day satisfaction guarantee and free shipping, a $100 savings. The black AV120 is reduced to $69.99, but personally I love the bronze and recommend saving the $20. Even if you don’t have diminished hearing, using a TV speaker instead of the TV’s internal speakers provides a more comfortable and enjoyable viewing experience.

Radio Frequency (RF) headphones connect directly to a TV’s audio output and send sound to the headphones without going through menus. Unfortunately, good RF headphones are expensive. The Sennheiser RS175 RF headphones are currently $199.95, reduced from $279.95. I’d look at those if you want a headphone option to go with the AV120 TV Speaker. They don’t have AccuVoice dialogue enhancement, though.