The television and radio

This page covers:

Section B – The television and radio
B.a. Strategies to help with understanding the television and radio
B.b. Strategies to listen to conversation when visiting other people and when the TV is on
B.c. Environmental aids to help with understanding the television or radio
B.d. Subtitles on TV

B.e. Smart TVs

B.f. Catch-up and On-Demand TV

B.g. Watching via phone or tablet


Televisions (TVs) are a common addition to many homes.  As technology continues to move forward, new TVs may have features that deaf/hard of hearing/ hearing aid users may find helpful.  

For example, some TVs may have the option to: 

  • show subtitles if they are available on the programme you are watching 
  • adjust the bass (low) sounds and the treble (high pitched) sounds which some people may find helps make speech clearer 
  • adjust the tone to suit you 
  • Speech enhancement which may help some people hear speech better over background sound effects and music on the programme 

If you already have a TV it may be worth finding out what it might be able to do for you if you haven’t already.  (Read the instructions or some people like to play around with the settings – but if you do this make a note of what they were before you started in case you want to go back to how it was!) 

If you are considering getting a new TV, then it may be worth doing a bit of research before purchasing. 

B.a. Strategies to help with understanding the television and radio

1. With TV programmes where there is a lot of noise and actors do not face the camera:
i. Have quiet in the room.
ii. Use environmental aids for the TV. (See section B.c. below on Environmental aids to help with understanding the televison.)

2. Sometimes I want to listen to the radio with my partner whilst in bed. To avoid disturbing other family members and neighbours I place the radio on the shelf above the bed so that each partner can reach and adjust the controls appropriately. The hard of hearing partner can then turn up the controls of their hearing aid.


B.b. Strategies to listen to conversation when visiting other people and when the TV is on.

1. I produce my Communication Card and ask for the volume to be turned off (or down).

2. I try to lipread, but it depends on the lipreadability of the person I’m talking to.

3. I ask if we can chat outside the TV room where there is less background noise.

4. See also Chapter 4 “Crowded rooms”.


B.c. Environmental aids to help with understanding the television or radio

Technology moves on all the time. It’s a good idea to check what’s new from time to time. For example, some NHS Audiology Clinics in some areas are issuing patients with Bluetooth enabled hearing aids that can connect to other Bluetooth devices.

If you do not wear hearing aids:

1. Headphones: If you can hear with headphones, look for the radios and TVs which have sockets for headphones to be plugged into.  If you find you hear better when you can use both ears, check that the headphone socket is for stereo (2-sided) headphones rather than mono (1-sided) headphones.  It is also possible to get headphones with adjustable volume for either side which is useful if you have a larger loss in one ear.  You need to be aware that plugging headphones directly into a TV or radio may cut off the sound for everyone else.

2. Listening aids: (Listening aids are sometimes called Personal Listeners.)  There are two categories of listening aids – wired or wireless.

Wired listening aids: Sound is picked up from the TV either by a microphone being placed on the TV or radio speaker; on some models the aid is wired into the television via the scart socket. The sound is amplified and the person listens with headphones. Most of the listening devices enable the deaf person to listen to the TV or radio at their own preferred volume without interfering with the volume preferred by other people.

Some examples of wired listening aids which can be used with the TV or radio are:

  • The Crescendo (available from Sarabec and Connevans)
  • The Sonido (available from Connevans)

The price range can vary greatly, so it pays to shop around to see what is available, what the equipment can do and what suits your pocket.

Caution is needed with wired systems to make sure that people do not trip over the wires.  A possible solution may be to run the wires under a rug (which may itself then become a tripping hazard.)

Wireless listening aids:  These can be radio or infrared devices.  The transmitter sits near the TV and sound is picked up either by a microphone near the speaker or wired into the TV via the scart socket.  The deaf person wears the headphones attached to the receiver.  As the system is wireless there are no wires to trip over.

Some examples of wireless listening aids are:

  • The Infralight System (available from SarabecConnevans)
  • The Radiolight System (available from Sarabec, Connevans)
  • The Communication Master CM1 (available from Sarabec, Connevans)

If you wear hearing aids with a T switch/programme:

3. Personal loops: Most of the wired and wireless Listening Aids mentioned above for people who do not wear hearing aids can be obtained for use with a hearing aid with a T-switch. 

Instead of headphones, the following options are available:

a. Neckloops: If you use a hearing aid you may find that a neck loop is better for you than headphones. A neck loop can be plugged into the headphone socket in radios and TVs. Or it can be attached to a listening aid. (See 1 and 2 immediately above.)

b. Earhook loop: These work in the same way as neckloops, but the loop is hooked over your ear(s) so it lies next to the hearing aid(s).  They are available for one or both ears.

c. For people with a hearing aid in one ear and normal hearing in the other there are headsets which have one earphone and one earhook loop.

4. Silent headphones are available which can only be used by hearing aid wearers with a T-switch.

5. Many deaf people use a room loop system. A loop system is a piece of equipment designed to help a person with a hearing aid to hear more clearly by switching their hearing aid to the T position (if their hearing aid has one.) 

(For more information on how loop systems work see Chapter 6, Section C: Loop Systems)

A room loop can be very useful to some people for watching television. The microphone can be attached to or placed near the speaker on the television.

If the room loop has two microphones you can use one microphone for the TV, and the other for people to speak to you. (Or you can keep the other microphone by the front door to pick up the doorbell and the telephone bell.)

The loop wire can be run around the skirting board and tucked under the carpet.  The microphone wire can be run under a rug, perhaps, to avoid becoming a tripping hazard.


For either with or without hearing aids:


The main UK channels – BBC1 & 2, ITV 1, Ch 4 and 5 do subtitle a lot of their programmes.  Other channels vary from a lot of programmes subtitled to none. 

It’s worth noting that some people have said that the platform (e.g. Freeview, Sky TV, etc) that you watch the channels on can make a difference to access to and quality of subtitles.  

B.d. Subtitles on TV

Many people with an acquired hearing loss find subtitles helpful for watching television.  Even some hearing people have said that there is so much background noise/incidental music on some programmes that they prefer watching TV with subtitles on.

Subtitles are words which appear on the screen which match the dialogue of the programme.  Many programmes have subtitles that have been typed up before the programme is aired, so that they appear as a block of two or three lines of typing (pic)

Some programmes are subtitled live, which means the subtitles are typed as the programme is being aired.  These subtitles are usually scrolling subtitles, so one or a few words appear at a time.  News programmes often have this sort of subtitles.

What some people said about subtitles:

  • I find subtitles a life-saver.  They mean I can watch television with the rest of the family, whereas before I used to just read a book whilst they watched.
  • My family weren’t all that keen on subtitles when I first went deaf as they found it distracting, but when they realised it was the only way I could enjoy TV, they got used to it.
  • I put the subtitles on when I’m watching TV with my young children.  It allows me to be able to discuss the programme with them afterwards and I feel it’s helping them with their English and reading.
  • I always put the subtitles on.  Sometimes, especially on news or live programmes, they get a bit muddled and don’t make much sense, or they vanish for a while, but most of the time I find them really helpful.
  • I only use subtitles for programmes that have background music as they are the programmes I struggle most to hear. 

B.d.i. Subtitles on Analogue TV

The UK has switched to Digital TV now.

B.d.ii. Subtitles on Digital TV

Subtitles are also available on some Freeview, digital, cable and satellite programmes.  If purchasing any of these sorts of TVs or set-top boxes, ask to try out the subtitles in the shop before you buy. It is easier to access subtitles on some TVs/boxes than on others.

Subtitles are either put on by pressing a “subtitle” button, or on some sets can be made to appear automatically on every programme that is subtitled by programming it through the set-up menu.  You will need to ask in the shop and/or consult the manufacturer’s instructions to find out what you need to do.

B.d.iv. If you want your video tapes to record the subtitles onto the video tape you will need to hire or buy a special video recorder.  (There are very few video recorders that will tape subtitles at this current time.) As technology is changing all the time (and video tapes will eventually be phased out to be replaced by DVD and hard-drive recorders) it might be better to hire or wait a little until the price of the new equipment comes down.

B.d.v. Only some DVD and hard-drive recorders are able to record subtitles.  Again, it is a good idea to ask to try in the shop before you buy to check for ease of use. What some people said about buying digital TV equipment:

  • When buying TVs, set-top boxes or recording devices, I always ask to look at the handset in the shop so I can see if I am able to see clearly the labels on the buttons or whether the buttons are a good size for my husband who has arthiritis and finds small buttons too difficult. 
  • When buying any equipment where I want to access subtitles I look for a specific SUBTITLE button to make sure turning subtitles on and off is easy.
  • I always try the equipment in the shop and if the assistants don’t like it or won’t let me try the handsets, etc, I go elsewhere.

If you feel you would benefit from any help with hearing the television or radio, your first port of call should be your local Social Services who should be able to tell you what is available in your area.  See the section on Obtaining Environmental Aids.

B.e. Smart TVs

A lot of TVs these days are Smart TVs. These are TVs that can connect to the internet via home boradband.  Connecting to the internet enables you to access Catch-up and On-demand streaming services. Examples might be BBC iPlayer or Netflix. It’s worth noting that if you have unreliable or slow internet, then a Smart TV may not work very well for you. 

B.f. Catch-up and On-demand TV

Some Catch-up and On-demand streaming services have subtitles on some or all of their programmes, but it can vary, so it’s worth doing some research before signing up to a paid-for service if you rely on subtitles. 

B.g. Watching via phone or tablet 

I know some people who like to watch TV or the catch-up services on their phone or tablet. This has the same problems as watching on a TV – access to and the quality of subtitles may vary on different devices, plus the subtitles may be too small for some people.