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TV Ears: The Definitive Buyer’s Guide for Happier TV Watching

Doug Breaker

Last updated on Nov 2, 2019

Hearing loss can make it harder to listen to music and watch TV—so how can you make sure that you maintain clear and consistent sound quality while enjoying these activities?

According to a 2018 NIH study, people with hearing aids watch TV or video for an average of 370 minutes per day, 57 minutes longer than the general population. Despite consuming more TV shows and videos, people with hearing aids can face challenges when watching TV that mirror the difficulties they experience in daily life.

To help overcome these difficulties, audio technology companies offer a variety of assistive listening devices specially designed for TV watching. Yet not all of these assistive listening devices are created equal: they differ in terms of technology, features, price, benefits, and more.

TV Ears are the top-selling brand in the U.S. for TV listening devices—but are they the right product for you? This article will discuss everything you need to know about TV Ears: what they are, how they work, and the best product for your needs.

watching tv

Why Do You Need TV Ears?

Even mild hearing loss can create issues when watching TV. The obstacles for people with hearing aids while watching TV include:

  • TV shows feature a variety of different voices, accents, and speaking rates, including speech that may be mumbled, whispered, or in a foreign accent.
  • Speech during TV shows is often accompanied by music and sound effects that makes it harder to understand.
  • Many TV sets have compressed audio and loudspeakers that are oriented in a different direction than would be expected in a natural live conversation.

Simply turning up the TV volume may be effective in the short term for people with hearing loss, but it has several drawbacks. First, TV sound quality degrades as the volume increases, making it more difficult to understand speech. Second, having the TV at a high volume may disturb other people who are nearby or also watching the TV.

Using closed captions is another possible solution, but it too comes with disadvantages. Closed captions may not be available for live events. When they are available, they may be poor quality or on a delay that affects viewers’ enjoyment. In addition, simply reading closed captions doesn’t allow viewers with partial hearing loss to fully appreciate the music, sound effects, and other audio.

What are TV Ears? Definition and More

Several companies have designed TV amplifiers that help people with hearing disabilities watch TV shows or videos. These devices are sometimes collectively referred to as “TV Ears.” In this article, however, we’ll be discussing the original TV Ears company and brand.

The company TV Ears is an audio technology business that produces assistive listening devices for people with hearing impairments. These products are sound amplifiers that bring sound from the TV directly into the user’s ear, helping to separate speech from background noise.

Founded in 1998, the company is currently headquartered in San Diego, California and has sold more than 2 million devices. George Dennis, founder and president of the company, built the original TV Ears device for his father, who was listening to the television so loud that his neighbors complained to the building’s management. Dennis’ father had tried using hearing aids to pick up the TV audio, but found they didn’t work well enough—leading Dennis to create the TV Ears product out of his living room.

 

Couple using TV ears while watching television

Source: tvears.com

How Do TV Ears Work?

TV Ears look and function differently than “standard” hearing aids. In fact, they’re not classified as hearing aids at all.

The TV Ears headset is a wireless system with two earbuds, much like typical headphones, that users place into their ears. These earbuds are connected by a lightweight headset that hangs below the user’s chin, similar to a stethoscope.

A transmitter plugged into the TV sends the audio from the TV directly to the TV Ears headset, allowing users to receive the amplified audio directly in their ears. Additionally, a microchip within the device extracts and amplifies speech frequencies, making it easier for users to understand dialogue.

Wireless 2.3MHz infrared technology, built into the TV Ears headset, transmits audio over a coverage area of 600 square feet at a maximum volume of 120 decibels. This means that users must be within the TV’s line of sight in order to receive audio.

Users are able to adjust the volume by rotating a knob on the TV Ears headset, which works independently from the TV’s volume. This means users can watch television together with family and friends, and everyone can listen at a comfortable volume. Two or more people can also use TV Ears headsets at the same time with a single transmitter.

According to the company, TV Ears work with any television set. They’re compatible with regular TV, cable TV, satellite TV, VCRs, DVDs, and stereo systems.

Note that TV Ears require a rechargeable battery with a life of up to 4-6 hours. This battery will last between 1 to 2 years, depending on frequency of use. Users can purchase replacement batteries from the TV Ears website.

TV Ears Pros and Cons

Now that we’ve discussed the ins and outs of TV Ears devices, what are the pros and cons of TV Ears?

Pros

  • Comfortable for daily use: Lightweight and hangs discreetly below the user’s chin. Users can comfortably recline or lie down while wearing TV Ears, letting them enjoy their TV watching unbothered and uninterrupted.
  • Ease of use and convenience: A major selling point of TV Ears is the device’s simplicity and convenience, helping improve users’ quality of life. TV Ears users can listen to the TV at the volume of their choosing, without disturbing others around them.

Cons

  • Limited infrared connectivity: Maximum coverage area of 600 square feet and the headset must have a clear line of sight to the transmitter. This may cause issues for certain users, depending on the layout of their home and TV.
  • Not for use outside the home: TV Ears are a specialized type of assistive listening device for exclusive use with television sets in a home environment. The TV Ears manufacturer cautions that these devices will likely not work well outside of this limited use case.

TV Ears Products: Which TV Ears Should You Buy?

TV Ears actually manufactures multiple versions of the device, based on the different needs of the user and the television set. The TV Ears product lineup and pricing is current as of this writing, based on the TV Ears website.

  • TV Ears Original
    TV Ears Original

    Source: tvears.com

    • Cost: $129.95
    • The “original” TV Ears device is for use exclusively with analog televisions.
  • TV Ears Digital
    • Cost: $229.95
    • This device is for use with digital televisions, including plasma and LCD TVs. Users who have a TV with SRS, or PCM sound should purchase the TV Ears Digital device.
  • TV Ears Dual Digital
    • Cost: $299.95
    • This device is for use with digital televisions and offers twice the power of the TV Ears Digital device. It includes 13 light-emitting diodes, as opposed to the 5 LEDs in the TV Ears Digital. The TV Ears Dual Digital also includes a new “snap fit” charging system that securely locks the device in place while charging.
  • TV Ears Voice Clarifying Sound Bar and Headsets
    TV Ears Voice Clarifying Sound Bar and Headsets

    Source: tvears.com

    • Cost: $329.95
    • The TV Ears Voice Clarifying Sound Bar is a wireless TV speaker that makes TV dialog more clear. The device measures 17 inches long and includes three settings for different levels of hearing loss. This product also comes with two wireless TV Ears headsets, so that two users can set their own volume independently.

Seeing these prices, you might wonder “Are TV Ears worth it?” The answer depends on how much you plan to use TV Ears and how much you think you’ll get out of them.

If you watch a lot of TV shows and videos, but your enjoyment has been hindered by hearing loss, TV Ears or other assisted listening devices may be the solution you’ve been looking for. On the other hand, if you’re largely satisfied with your TV viewing experience, you may not find that the price of TV Ears is worth it.

TV Ears Reviews

The TV Ears Digital headset currently has an average rating of 3.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon, based on 457 reviews. 71 percent of users rated TV Ears either 4 or 5 stars, while 16 percent rated them 1 star.

In a positive TV Ears review, Debra Lucas writes:

“I LOVE THESE THINGS! I am a night owl and my husband goes to bed at 10… These TV Ears work so well, I never want to be without them. The sound is so clear and I barely have to turn the volume up at all. The longest I have worn them was when I first got them. I watched TV for 7 hours straight from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. when I was binge-watching a series and the battery didn’t run out, nor did the sound quality diminish.”

In general, customers’ frustrations with TV Ears focus on technical issues, comfort, and customer support. Bill Frederic writes in a negative TV Ears review:

“I have been using TV ears for at least 12 years, replacing sets as they break (4). They really work well and this version seems to be even clearer than the last version, which was excellent. In the 12 years, I have had the earpiece arms break on all 10 headsets. The warranty is for 12 months and 8 of the headsets lasted that long and the company replaced the 2 that didn’t. I have discovered that you can repair the headset arms by using epoxy to ‘weld’ a piece of snipped tin (canned food) around the arm at the broken spot. I use J-B Weld, Cold-weld formula Steel Reinforced Epoxy.”

However, a large majority of TV Ears users report a positive experience with the device, such as lisa83’s rave review:

“I bought this for my elderly mom who has trouble hearing TV. I have tried several other headsets, sound bars, etc. and these TV EARS ARE AMAZING! Mom can hear MUCH better than all the rest of the items that I purchased, and I don’t have to hear the TV on so loud anymore!”

TV Ears Alternatives: Reviews, Pricing, and More

While TV Ears are a good solution for many people with hearing loss, they’re not the only TV amplifiers on the market. In this section, we’ll discuss two alternatives to TV Ears from Sennheiser: a TV headset and an induction loop system.

1. Sennheiser SET840

The Sennheiser SET840 is an assistive listening device very much like TV Ears, with in-the-ear headphones attached to a headset that connects to a TV transmitter. Unlike TV Ears, however, the Sennheiser SET840 uses wireless radio frequencies rather than infrared frequencies. This provides connectivity of up to 100 feet, including through walls.

Other features of the Sennheiser SET840 include three different settings for optimal speech intelligibility. Users can adjust the volume of the right and left ears independently, and the unit’s battery life can last up to 9 hours.

The Sennheiser website currently lists the price of the Sennheiser SET840 at $279.95, slightly more than the TV Ears Digital. On the Amazon website, the Sennheiser SET840 has 566 reviews with an average rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars.

In a positive Sennheiser SET840 review, Amazon user Steffie U. writes:

“My mother-in-law loves them and wears them all day without discomfort. I do need to say that the foam tips hurt her ears, but we swapped them out for the more traditional spongy tips and it’s been no turning back. Because they provide their own sound, we can mute the TV and she can still hear the sound at a level she can hear. Now I do not have to listen to the news at a level that makes my ears bleed.”

Meanwhile, Amazon user Tennessee Katey complains of repeated technical issues in a negative Sennheiser SET840 review:

“Today the receiver again went dead, inexplicably. It has not gotten wet or in any other way been treated inappropriately. I checked all the connections, unplugged and replugged in each connection, read the owner’s manual—no solution appears to be available. I am now at my wit’s end—it’s too costly for me to replace even just the receiver every year or two. There’s no use in my watching TV without it, my hearing is too impaired.”

Users generally compliment the Sennheiser SET840’s clarity of sound and rich feature set. However, some users experience frustrating technical issues, while others complain about discomfort and the product’s value for money.

2. Sennheiser SET-840S

Source: en-us.sennheiser.com/

TV Ears and the Sennheiser SET840 are two examples of a “stethoset” TV hearing aid system with headphones and receiver—but what about other TV amplifying technologies?

Rather than wearing headphones, some people with hearing loss decide to use an induction loop system when watching TV. An induction loop system consists of an induction loop wire or cable that is installed around a room. This cable generates an electromagnetic field that can be transmitted to hearing aids or a specialized receiver.

The Sennheiser SET-840S is an assistive listening system consisting of an induction loop cable together with a wireless receiver. Users can connect their hearing aids to the receiver or plug in a standard set of headphones.

On the Sennheiser website, the SET-840S device currently sells for a price of $299.95, more expensive than the SET840 or TV Ears. Amazon reviewers give the device an average of 3.5 out of 5 stars, based on 91 ratings.

In a positive Sennheiser SET-840S review, Amazon user Coffee Drinker writes:

“Even used with just a five-dollar pair of Panasonic headphones, the Sennheiser system worked great: clear, clean audio with no static and no dropouts—none at all. Just clear sound with plenty of volume to spare, even with our TV set to half of the volume that we’ve been used to using, or no speaker volume at all.”

As with the Sennheiser SET840, users of the Sennheiser SET 840-S are most likely to be dissatisfied due to technical issues, incompatibility with their TV system, and discomfort while wearing the device.

Reviewer Larry R. Neal leaves a negative review of the Sennheiser SET-840S:

“The SET 840-S won’t work on my Samsung Smart TV unless I use the microphone that is included. However, the worst thing about this unit is the system itself. I have to put the receiver around my neck, and then, because my VA dispensed hearing aids are not compatible with my VA issued hearing device, I have to plug my headphones into the receiving jack which is on a lanyard around my neck… While wearing my hearing aids and glasses, the non-adjustable headphones dig into my glasses and become very uncomfortable.”

TV Ears and Hearing Aids: What You Need to Know

TV Ears and traditional hearing aids can serve to complement each other for different situations in daily life. Traditional hearing aids are intended for natural conversations with other people, and often aren’t designed to pick up audio from TVs and speakers. On the other hand, TV Ears are a specialized assistive listening device for use only while watching TV.

If you’re looking for the best hearing aid to complement your TV Ears product, give MDHearingAid a try. We offer high-quality, easy-to-use hearing aids at affordable prices. All of our hearing aids are FDA-approved and can be ordered directly from the MDHearingAid website.

Whether you’re looking for excellent value or cutting-edge hearing edge technology, MDHearingAid has you covered.

MDHearingAid’s best-selling model is the MDHearingAid AIR. The AIR model includes features such as improved noise reduction, feedback cancellation, and multiple settings for quiet and noisy environments.

The MDHearingAid AIR is available on our website, where it has an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars. User Arthur D. gives the MDHearingAid AIR a five-star review, writing:

“I have had a hearing problem since I was a child and had been told by audiologists 3 times that a hearing aid would be ineffective. I finally tried the AIR hearing aid and found sounds that I had never heard before. It works and is easy to use.”

The LifeEar CORE is another great offering from MDHearingAid: a smart, Bluetooth-enabled hearing aid that adapts to your hearing. By downloading the LifeEar app for smartphones and tablets, users can create custom “sound profiles” for a variety of situations and use cases.

On the MDHearingAid website, the LifeEar CORE has an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars. LifeEar CORE user Dr. M. writes:

“LifeEar hearing aids have changed my life. No more asking people to repeat themselves or pretending to have heard them… And the LifeEar app has removed any embarrassment when making adjustments to the hearing aids.”

Conclusion

TV Ears and other assistive listening devices have helped many people with hearing loss get more out of their TV watching experience. Whether you prefer a TV listening headset, an induction loop system, or another solution entirely, it’s important to find the right device so that you can continue enjoying TV shows and videos.  TV Ears offers high quality solution for, and the team at MDHearingAid recommends them.   Click here to visit TV Ears’ website, and use the promo code MDCO20 to get 20% off any order.

MDHearingAid products are an excellent complement to TV Ears and other assistive listening devices. Our affordable hearing aids have received top marks from thousands of happy customers.

Interested in trying hearing aids completely risk free? Find the best model for you.

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Doug Breaker
Chief Executive Officer
Doug Breaker serves as CEO of MDHearingAid. Doug joined MDHearingAid after successful CEO roles at HomeFinder.com, EarthClassMail.com and Scripted.com. Doug's decades of experience... [ Learn More ]

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