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Watching TV, enjoying music and accessing other forms of entertainment are an important part of our lives. Watching with subtitles or signing, or using products to hear the sound better can make watching TV a more enjoyable experience for all of the family. MP3 players or iPods, gaming systems, tablets, laptops, smartphones, Hi-Fi systems, televisions and DVD players can all be connected to products that could help you or your deaf child enjoy them better.

Here we tell you about products and technologies which could help you enjoy entertainment at home if you don’t have hearing aids, if you have hearing aids or implants, and if your hearing aids or implants have the T programme set. We also tell you about other technologies which could help, for example signing and subtitling.

Watch our video about accessing entertainment at home

Products if you don’t use a hearing aid

Headphones

Headphones may be useful for those with a mild or moderate hearing loss. They will enable you to turn down the volume of the main speakers when watching TV. Some headphones are extra loud. On others you can control the volume and tone for each ear, which may be useful if your child has a single-sided hearing loss and you're concerned about amplifying the sound for both ears. Other headphones work by sending vibrations through the skull. They 'bone conduction headphones' sit in front of the ears and may be useful for children who aren't able to use regular headphones, for example when they have a conductive hearing loss or frequent ear infections.

Personal listeners

Personal listeners are small, personal amplifiers that are used for communicating with others or accessing entertainment. They receive sound either from their built-in microphone, an external microphone, or through a lead (for example, connected to the TV) and make the sound much louder. A deaf person can listen to the amplified sound by using a neckloop, headphones, earbuds or a stethoset.

Radio aids

A radio aid can be connected to your TV or any entertainment device, either via Bluetooth or with a wire. You will be able to use it if you have suitable radio aid receivers.

Wireless TV listeners with a stetoset

You could use a TV listener with a stetoset headset, which is similar to earphones but uses air tubes to conduct the sound instead of wires. Alternatively you could connect headphones or earphones to the receiver unit which is worn around the neck.

Some of these products are available for loan from our Technology Test Drive service.

Products for hearing aid users

Direct audio input leads

These leads can connect an entertainment device, such as a laptop, directly to your hearing aids using a simple cable. Your hearing aids will need to have a ‘shoe’ fitted and be enabled to receive direct input by your audiologist.

Radio aids

A radio aid can be used at home, connecting the transmitter to your TV, music or entertainment devices using a simple cable or by placing the microphone near the speaker. You will receive the sound direct to your hearing aids via ear level, neckloop or body worn receivers.

Digital streaming devices

A streamer can be used with certain models of hearing aid, cochlear implants and bone anchored hearing aids – they link with entertainment devices using Bluetooth and send the sound digitally to the hearing devices.

Using a games console

Hearing aid compatible headsets can be used with games consoles. They could allow you to talk and interact with other gamers whilst clearly hearing sound effects and what others are saying.

Some of these products are available for loan from our Technology Test Drive service.

Products if your hearing aid has the T programme set

The products below produce a magnetic, wireless signal that a hearing aid or implant set to the T programme can pick up and convert into sounds in the hearing aid itself.

Room loops

The loop amplifier connects directly to your television, music or entertainment device. A loop of wire is connected to the amplifier and needs to be installed, usually around the perimeter of the room. Alternatively, a pad is placed under a seat cushion. Room loops make the sound from the TV loud and clear within that area, and sound can be heard by anyone in the room who has hearing aids with the T programme set.

Wireless TV listeners

TV listeners have a transmitter that connects to the TV or entertainment device. Anyone with hearing aids or implants set to the T programme and wearing a small receiver and neckloop around their neck will be able to hear the sound directly into their hearing devices. The receiver has a volume control button.

Neckloops

neckloop is worn around the neck, often under clothing, and connects to the output socket on any entertainment device. They often have a small pendant unit which helps amplify the sound signal which is sent to the hearing aid using the T programme. Bluetooth neckloops are worn around the neck and pick up sound wirelessly via Bluetooth; they don't need to be plugged into an entertainment device. They work with any Bluetooth enabled device – such as a smartphone, MP3 player, laptop or tablet device and send the sound  to the hearing device using the T programme.

Inductive earhooks

These are small flexible hooks that sit behind the ear next to the hearing aid. They have wires which are plugged directly into the sound source. The sound is then transmitted to the hearing device using the T programme.

Personal listeners

If you have hearing aids with the T programme then you could listen to the TV using a personal listener with a neckloop.

Silent headphones

These look just like standard headphones but don’t produce any sound. Instead they produce an inductive output that a hearing aid set to the T programme can pick up.

Some of these products are available for loan from our Technology Test Drive service.

Subtitles and signing on TV and films

Subtitles

Subtitles are available on many TV channels - in fact the BBC broadcasts subtitles on all of its main channels. All main TV channels, for example ITV, have to subtitle at least 80% of their output, however smaller channels have far lower levels of subtitling.

It's usually easy to access subtitles either through a button on the remote control or from a main menu on the TV screen. Subtitles will usually give information on the sound effects as well as dialogue. Subtitles can help to understand what is being said and share the enjoyment of watching the TV with the whole family.

Subtitles are available on some catch-up and on-demand TV services, such as the BBC iPlayer. Many home entertainment systems and other products will allow you to record programmes with subtitles so that you can enjoy them later. Using a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone you can watch previously broadcast programmes and an increasing number now have subtitles available. Subtitles are also available on most DVDs and Blu-ray discs and on some on-demand films or films for download - please check before purchasing or downloading a film.

Signed programmes

With signed programmes a sign language interpreter will be shown towards the bottom of the screen, so you can watch the programme and the signing at the same time. There is much less signing available on the TV than subtitling. At the moment BBC and ITV only provide signing on 5% of their programmes. These programmes tend to be broadcast late at night or early in the morning, so you might need to record them to watch at a more suitable time. Look out for signed programmes on the BBC including their deaf TV programme See Hear. On the BBC iPlayer you can search for programmes and one of the search categories is ‘Signed’ – this will give you access to a range of previously broadcast programmes with signing.

For details of other signed TV programmes visit the BSL Zone website.