AV products for the hearing impaired

It's a common problem: due to hearing loss, some folks can’t hear sound in its full detail, contrast or richness. When we listen to music, frequencies are lost and nuances can't be processed fully.

And when it comes to watching television, even at a decent volume , many people can't quite make out the dialogue. Turning the TV full blast doesn’t help either. And many more people seem to struggle with this than we realise.  

We’re not going to claim any knowledge or expertise on the science of  hearing loss, but we do know a thing or two about products and settings that might be of help to you. 

It is a fact of life that human hearing is imperfect and unbalanced. It deteriorates over time due to ageing, genetics and an increasingly noisy world. And it can be very, very frustrating.

Luckily, when it comes to watching television or listening to music there a number of things you can do. 

 

The first thing is have a play around with your television and/or AVR settings. 

Most people with age related hearing loss have a problem with high frequency loss, i.e. their hearing of low frequencies is much better than their high frequency hearing. If this is the case, rather than simply turning up the volume, having control over the sound frequencies (e.g. bass/treble or a graphic equaliser) can help. For example, you may be able to turn down the bass and boost the treble right up.

Many AVR’s like the entire Yamaha-range (from the humble RX-V385 all the way up to the awesome RX-A 3080) have ‘Adaptive DRC’, which stands for Dynamic Range Control or Dynamic Range Compression, depending on the source you consult.  Here’s how it can be useful: normally there is a very large difference between the volume of the quiet parts of the sound (typically speech) and the louder parts. If you turn up the volume for the quiet parts of the sound then the louder parts knock your socks off. DRC basically reduces the differences between the quiet and the loud parts - usually by making the quieter parts louder without making the louder parts any louder. It’s good to note that different companies all give DRC different names - e.g. Night Mode, Dynamic Volume. 

If you have a surround set-up and you mainly watch movies, make sure that you have control over the centre speaker volume. About 80% of dialogue comes through the centre speaker. One of the advantages of having a separate centre speaker control is that you can turn it up relative to the sound of the other speakers.  

If television or AVR settings are doing your head in, have a talk to our installations team, and they are very happy to come over and do it for you. 

Soundbars are a great way to improve TV sound and some claim to have built-in voice-enhancement technologies.

Zvox makes it a point of sale to market sound bars designed specifically to improve dialogue intelligibility.  But with the brand no longer available on the New Zealand market, it’s time to point out that there are other soundbar options using equally competent dialogue enhancing technology.  

One of them is the Yamaha Clear Voice Dialogue Enhancement. This feature, found in the full range of Yamaha sound bars, including the brand new Yamaha MusicCast Bar 400, brings dialogue and narration to the forefront – making voices easier to hear and understand. Or in nerd-speak, “The vocal frequency range and its harmonics are emphasized for greater intelligibility while remaining frequency components are attenuated.”

We invite you to come and test this out or get some feedback from customers that have used a Yamaha soundbar for this purpose. 

 

A third way of addressing hearing loss is by using wireless headphones. 

For television use, you will need a tv with two-way Bluetooth, which lets you send the sound straight to a pair of wireless headphones. If your set lacks this feature, you can purchase a transmitter (such as the excellent Avantree products) that plugs into your TV and a set of headphones with a built-in receiver. Sorted. 

Just as with ZVOX, some headphone brands use heavy marketing to promote their wireless television headphones claiming to boost the dialogue while lowering background noise using pre-settings based on  a handful of profiles. 

Similarly, a few pre-set options are used for their stethoscope-style headphones, called stethosets.

While this is all very helpful and a step in the right direction, we all know that people are not statistic models or don’t necessarily fit into one of 5 profiles. Hearing loss is a very individual thing. So leave it to Beyerdynamic to take it that next step further. 

Beyerdynamic cut a deal with a German audiologist company that has over 3 million customers on database. The 3 million customers served as a starting point to build profiles, based on age and gender. These profiles are accessible via the MIY app, but that’s not where it ends. If you can take 6 minutes in a very quiet room, the app takes you through a Mimi hearing test, testing a broader range of frequencies than a traditional hearing test and building an individual profile consisting of more than 100 scientific parameters, mapped directly to your unique hearing. (If you’re not impressed by now, we don’t know what will :-))

At the end of the hearing test, you can then upload the test results to your Beyerdynamic Xelento, Aventho or Amiron wireless headphones  and voila, you have a pair of headphones that offers a personalised listening experience without compromise and that despite the imperfections of human hearing. Bart had a play with the excellent Beyerdynamic Aventho’s and thought the result were impressive. 

Now Bart is a ‘relatively’ young lad, so he is not really struggling with interfering levels of hearing loss yet. What we really wanted to know was how good this Mimi app (and subsequently the Beyerdynamic wireless headphones) is for somebody with serious hearing loss. So we gave the headphones to Wayne, a loyal Rapallo customer who relies on a hearing aid for both ears. Wayne was very happy to give them a go for us and provide us with some honest feedback. Wayne’s immediate response upon listening to Enya’s ‘Orinoco flow’ was: ‘I can hear the voices!’ Wayne spent quite a bit of time testing the Aventho’s and while Wayne is not a gadget guy, he was deeply impressed and will purchase the new Beyerdynamic Lagoon noise-cancelling headphones when they become available in January 2019. Check them out on our website. Wayne also commented on how comfortable the Aventho’s are, which is something that we picked up on too, so it must be true. J

Obviously, the use of these Beyerdynamic headphones is not limited to television use, but can be equally used for listening to music. I mean, they are high quality headphones without the use of the MIY app, but this feature sure takes it to a new level. 

And with that we leave you for another week.