Thanksgiving was the first time our extended family had come together in two years. All eight of us were hyped up, excitedly talking at once in our attempts to say everything we had missed sharing during the pandemic. Cross-talk abounded. Our voices reverberated and bounced around the high ceilings and hard surfaces of my in-laws new home. I didn’t care. It was wonderful to be back celebrating together.
After the meal, we gathered together to watch The Great British Baking show—everyone’s favorite. We had all held off watching the show until we could be together. As the opening credits rolled, I knew it was going to be a challenge.
“Let’s put on the captions,” I suggested and they were immediately engaged.
“Can we turn it up a bit?” my husband asked. I was happy he was the one that requested this additional action. He couldn’t hear at this level either. As the volume rose louder and louder, my sister-in-law said, “Wow! I don’t think we have ever had it this loud.”
She was not complaining, just observing. But I felt like crying as it hit me how hard it is for me to hear. During the pandemic, I had almost forgotten.
Had I Forgotten About My Hearing Loss?
In some ways, the pandemic constantly reminded me about my hearing loss. The masks, the move to virtual meetings, and the plastic barriers in stores all made it difficult to communicate easily with others. But these things made it harder for everyone else too—hearing loss or not.
Surprisingly, communication was often easier in isolation. My social and business meetings took place online—most often (especially if I hosted) with Zoom’s auto-captions activated. Captions were also available for pandemic entertainment like binge-watching shows on streaming services.
When I did socialize in-person, it was in very small groups with immediate family or very close friends. It was relatively easy for me to communicate because I had control over my environment, had assistive listening devices in place as needed and kept the group size small.
As we are able to socialize more fully in the coming months (fingers crossed), we may realize we have “forgotten” about our hearing loss during the pandemic. It’s time to review the tips that worked for us in the past and embrace these new opportunities to connect with others.
How to Watch TV with Hearing Loss
At my home, it is easy for me to watch TV. I have hearing-friendly equipment and supportive family members who are willing to listen at the volume that works for me. And we always turn on closed captions. Perhaps my husband has adapted too well since he also wanted the volume higher when watching in the larger group at Thanksgiving.
If you have trouble enjoying television programs, try these tips.
1. Start with the right equipment
Most TVs today come with undersized speakers. In order to enjoy good audio, an external speaker, like a sound bar is needed. This adds complexity, but also improves sound. My post When It’s Time for A Hearing Loss Friendly TV details my search for the right sound bar for me.
2. Turn on the captions
Rule #1 for TV viewing with hearing loss is to use captions. Most of the time they are quite accurate on pre-recorded content. Live news programs and sporting events are more problematic. If you experience issues with inaccurate or poorly synchronized captions (in the United States), please report them to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) using this form. Or reach out to the provider of the content directly.
3. Create a conducive setting
Set up your room for listening success. Avoid locations with high ceilings and hard surfaces. Instead choose a more contained space and furniture with soft surfaces like couches and pillows. Choose the best seat for you so you can see the captions and hear the sound.
4. Bring the sound to your devices
If you have Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, cochlear implants or headphones, you can use a TV streaming device to bring the sound directly into your ears. Or set up a small induction loop in your TV room and connect via T-coil. Non-streaming options also exist. Plug the transmitter into the TV and the sound is heard via a linked receiver like headphones or even wearable speakers. All of these options make it harder to watch with others since ambient noise is reduced.
Readers, do you sometimes forget how hard it is for you to hear?