A TV viewer using a remote control to adjust settings on a TV

People who suspect they have hearing loss should consult an audiologist. The number of Americans with hearing problems is on the rise, according to researchers, and without intervention these issues can contribute to falls, depression, and dementia. Consumer Reports has lots of expert advice on how to decide when to get your hearing screened and what to do with the results.

People can also do a lot on their own to enhance their enjoyment of music, TV, and even conversations by making smart use of headphones, smartphones, and other devices. The settings and products discussed below are no substitute for hearing aids, but they can be helpful whether or not you have diagnosed hearing loss.

Headphones

Choose a noise-canceling model. Headphones with electronics that cancel out background noise can help you hear better and protect your hearing, too. That’s because you can listen comfortably with the volume set low. An inexpensive option is the Monoprice BT-300ANC, which gets an Excellent rating from CR for noise-canceling ability.

Combine hearing aids with headphones, if you want. Larger over-the-ear models are the most likely to fit with a wide range of hearing aids.

Smartphones

Sync your phone to your hearing aids. Many hearing aids equipped with Bluetooth can receive audio straight from your smartphone, whether you’re making a phone call or listening to music. Check to make sure the devices are compatible.

More on Hearing Aids and Hearing Loss

Hear better in a noisy restaurant. If you’ve synced your hearing aids with your iPhone, you can turn on Apple’s Live Listen feature and then place the phone near your dining companion. His or her voice will be piped to your hearing aids. You can also leave your iPhone near a TV across a room, then listen through your hearing aids. Audiologists say the feature may help, though the audio quality is often just so-so. The feature also works with AirPods, Apple’s true wireless earphones. Once your phone and hearing devices are paired, you turn the feature on from the Control Panel. To set this up, go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls > Hearing.

Get flash notifications. Smartphones can sound a tone to signal a new text message or Facebook post. You can also set many phones to flash so you don’t miss an alert, especially in a noisy environment, says Brian Fligor, Ph.D., an audiologist in Boston. Look under Accessibility in Settings.

Use real-time text. Most new smartphones support RTT, which works like a combination of a phone call and texting. If you and a friend have RTT turned on, you can call each other and then use either text or voice to converse. There’s no delay as in regular messaging; the text appears on your partner’s phone as you type. Turn RTT on under the Accessibility settings.


Become a member of Consumer Reports to get access to our TV Screen Optimizer, which will help you get the perfect picture on your TV in just minutes. Join today to get started.
 

TVs

Adjust the sound settings. TV viewers may find it hard to distinguish dialog, especially in action scenes. Try TV audio settings with names such as “Dialog” or “Clear Voice.” Whether it helps will depend on your hearing, your TV model, and even the show you’re watching. If your TV has an on-screen graphic equalizer, try adjusting frequencies to suit your hearing needs.

Experiment with volume leveling. This setting adjusts the highs and lows in volume so that you won’t strain to hear a movie’s intimate conversations or jump out of your skin when a commercial starts. Turning it on—or off—may help.

Spring for a sound bar. Good sound bars can produce clearer audio than many TVs. ZVOX claims that its AccuVoice feature makes it easier to hear dialog; CR hasn't tested that claim.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the June 2019 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.