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The Three Most Challenging Places...

Can you guess the places where people often complain about having difficulty hearing and understanding?

  1. Movies
  2. Television
  3. Noisy Restaurants
  4. All of the above

The answer is (4), all of the above. And these hearing complaints are from people with normal hearing

Two of the settings have something in common: movie films and television broadcasts use various recording, processing, transmitting and amplifying techniques that can make understanding more difficult for anyone.

Movie theaters use loudness expansion to make loud sounds louder than normal (especially during coming attractions). This is the opposite of what people with hearing loss need. Most people with hearing loss are more sensitive to loud sounds than people with normal hearing. (We can’t explain why movie theaters play the soundtrack so loud, since almost everyone complains about it.)

In addition, film directors often use several microphones to record speech from several people and locations at the same time. They also like to include background noise to make the scene more realistic. Add some background music and you’ve created a very difficult listening situation. If you want to watch a movie that’s easy to understand, try one made in the 1940s!

Most television sets have relatively small speakers. The quality and clarity of the recorded, processed, transmitted and amplified speech is usually good enough for people with normal hearing. But it’s not the same quality as live, face-to-face speech, and it’s often not good enough for people with hearing loss. In addition, speech clarity and loudness will very from channel to channel, from program to program, and from speaker to speaker. We also often hear complaints about programs such as Downton Abbey and Elementary, with those challenging English accents!

What about televisions sets with large speakers, surround sound systems, or even home theatres? These systems don’t necessarily make speech easier to understand. In fact, surround sound systems can introduce a slight reverberation or echo to the sound, making it more realistic, more three-dimensional – and more difficult to understand. If you’re having difficulty understanding a television program, consider turning off the surround sound effect.

In other words, the clarity of speech that has been recorded, processed, and transmitted through cable or over the air, is simply not as good as when you hear it face-to-face. For people with hearing loss, the difference is enough to make understanding speech in movies or on television more difficult.

And those noisy restaurants? That’s a topic for another newsletter

Note: Almost all television sets have captioning already built-in. The written text can be turned on using the remote control.

From our Hearing Health Care News

A newsletter for our patients, their families and friends

Fall 2014