An Interesting App To Make TV Watching Easier For People With Hearing Loss

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Watching TV can be a challenge for people with hearing loss. In my home, I have things set up just the way I want them. I use a sound bar that enhances speech over background noise and always watch with closed captions. But when I am elsewhere, it can be trickier. People are sometimes resistant to putting on the closed captioning or don’t know how to work that feature on their particular television set. The acoustics are often not ideal either, especially if the TV is far across the room like in a waiting room or hotel room. In the exhibit hall at HLAA’s 2018 Convention, I discovered a new tool that might help.

It is a free app called Tunity that lets you listen to a current TV broadcast on your smart phone, even when the TV is muted. It works with more than 100 channels in the United States, but not with streaming services like Netflix or Hulu or with previously recorded programs. The show must be airing at that time to use the app.

Tunity was originally designed for use by hearing people in loud bars, the gym or places like waiting rooms where TVs are hard to hear for everyone. Picture football fans watching the big game in a noisy sports bar and you have the original target market. Recently the company realized this product could also be useful for people with hearing loss. I agree. I encourage Tunity to continue to engage with the hearing loss community as it develops further applications.

How it Works

To start, open Tunity and align the TV you are watching within the blue box on the home screen. You can use your fingers to zoom in or out as needed. Once the TV is centered in the box, press the scan button. Hold the phone still until the scan is complete. When the channel is recognized, the sound starts streaming to the smart phone. You can listen to the TV directly from your phone, or link it via bluetooth to AirPods, your hearing aid or any other bluetooth enabled device. Or simply connect headphones. Pretty clever!

I tried it in a hotel room recently and it worked well. Opening the app and scanning the TV image was easy — it is just like taking a photo of the TV screen. After a few seconds the program was found and began streaming to my phone.

At first the sound was not synchronized perfectly with the TV so I needed to fine-tune it. On the bottom of the screen where it lists the channel you are watching, there is a caret key (∧). Press it and a number line will appear. Use the arrow keys to speed up or slow down the sound on your phone until it matches the feed from the TV. This took me a few minutes to do the first time, including some help from my hearing family, but it became easier with practice. Once the sound was matched to the lip movements, I was set.

I tried Tunity on several channels — some with news programs, others with sitcoms, and one with a movie. Each time I changed the channel, I needed to fine-tune the synchronization, but once it was synched, it stayed that way for the duration of the program.

While it takes time to get used to fine tuning the synchronization, once mastered, I found Tunity a useful tool to help with TV watching when outside my home. You can download the app here.

Readers, would you use an app like this?

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23 thoughts on “An Interesting App To Make TV Watching Easier For People With Hearing Loss”

  1. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    So Tunity gives no captions, correct? “Only” sound which I may or may not hear clearly? I tried it a while back but I’ll revisit it.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      No captions, but it brings the sound to your phone which can then be connected via Bluetooth to hearing aids, etc. Thanks for the question.

  2. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    Thanks. You also mentioned that it only works on live shows but using it on programs like sitcoms were mentioned. Does it support this? I’m also assuming it does not work internationally.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Just in the US. Any show that is broadcasting on TV (covers 100 channels) at that time, including sitcoms. Nothing taped or streaming.

  3. I don’t have cable and I watch Netflix etc. so although sounds like a great app it won’t help me, but maybe when I am elsewhere (a friend’s) and they don’t turn up the volume or put on the CC I could give it a try.

    Do you use a specific sound bar that enhances speech over background noise? Or they all the same?

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      You can read about the sound bar in this post: https://livingwithhearingloss.com/2017/04/04/when-its-time-for-a-hearing-loss-friendly-tv/ Thanks for your question.

  4. mama2russians – suburb of Detroit, MI, USA – I'm a stay at home mom. I have 2 school aged children who have invisible special needs. I also have invisible disabilities (mostly deaf & constantly dizzy). I love to knit & crochet. We have 1 sweet dog & 3 adorable cats. We also have a 5' long reef aquarium just getting up & running. It has 7 fish, a coral, 7 snails, 2 shrimp, 2 urchins & a boatload of hermit crabs! It's busy here!
    mama2russians says:

    Very cool. I’m trying it with HGTV right now. I can’t get it quite in sync but it IS nice to stream into my BAHA. I have the BAHA streaming device for one tv in our house. It will be nice to be able to use it in our home theater room when we watch tv shows with friends. It’s funny how many people dislike captions!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      The synching takes some time so keep at it. Glad it is helpful for you!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      That is great. Thanks for sharing what works for you.

  5. Question… you said this only works with “live” broadcasts and not pre-recorded. But then you said you tried it with sit-coms. I don’t know ANY sit-coms that are “live”. All are pre-recorded. Can you explain?

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Good question. A better way to describe it would be broadcasting at that moment. It could be a sporting event or other type of show. Thanks for asking.

  6. I’ve had it for about a year and used it probably 5-6 times. Great for sporting events to hear the announcers over the crowd. At home I use a tv adapter to stream to my Opn hearing aids, but Tunity is great when not home.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  7. Thanks for sharing this app – I am traveling and just tried out CNN and it worked well (after synching the volume). Much appreciated. I missed going to the convention this year due to family issues and am grateful for learning about new technologies that were introduced there.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      So glad it worked for you! Thanks for your comment.

  8. I envy you all! At this point, speech in my ears only helps a little bit.

    Captions are my entertainment savers and I’ve never met anyone who objected to turning them on – I can usually teach them how to get them and get rid of them by using their remote. There is even a movie theatre here that offers captions on some films!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      So glad the captions work well for you. I love them too but sometimes they are not available. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Great! Let me know how you like it.

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