TV for the hard of hearing – using iPhone earpods with your TV

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 1.11.30 PM

Though my hearing tests normal for someone my age, several years ago I began to notice some occasional difficulty when watching dramatic television or movies. I don’t have any problems with sports, news, talk shows, etc., but programming with a musical scores and sound effects was  problematic.

To get the volume loud enough where I could comfortably hear dialog, the music/special effects were uncomfortably loud resulting in constantly turning the volume up and down.

I’d watched plenty of programming on the iPhone/iPod/iPad with the earbuds and never had the issue of having to constantly adjust volume. I did a little bit of research and discovered the Sennheiser RS-180 wireless digital headphones.  I bought them and hooked them up to my home theater system.

They’re lightweight, comfortable, have great range, they sound great and definitely solved my need constantly adjust the volume. As a bonus, in the winter I can turn my thermostat down to like 62 and still be toasty warm. For around 6-9 months a year, I love ’em.

Sadly, high tech earmuffs aren’t nearly as fun in the summer.  I investigated and tried several solutions that were in-ear rather than over-the-ear with poor results. They were either uncomfortable for me, mono-only (no stereo) or both.

That experience left me thinking “I wish there was a way I could do it just using Apple’s EarPods.” It turns out there is. I know a lot of people detest earbuds/earpods but I’m not one of them. Lots of people complain that they fall out, but I don’t have that problem. They fit me great. If you don’t like putting things in your ears, this solution isn’t for you.

If you hate earbuds/earpods but have alternate in-ear headphones you like, it might still be interesting.

I found a couple of solutions that would do what I wanted, though some of those solutions too were mono-only. I wanted stereo and  went with AudioMate’s AM8112 1-Way Wireless Digital Audio Adapter. AudioMate’s an Australian company but like most things, it was available on Amazon. You get a transmitter that you plug into your TV’s or home theater’s audio out (or into your home theater receiver’s headphone jack*) and a receiver that you plug your earpods into. I’ve been using it for about 3 months and it works great for me. Comfortable, no constant volume adjustment, and I don’t need to turn the air conditioner to “deep freeze” when I wear them.

Both the transmitter and receiver are charged via a USB cable. While the receiver’s charge lasts a while, the transmitter’s charge runs out quicker. Since I had a USB hub lurking behind my TV setup anyway, I found it much easier to just always leave the transmitter plugged into the cable and charging. 

The transmitter plugs in with a standard 3.5mm mini headphone jack. My TV has a 3.5mm audio out, so that worked fine out of the box. I also tried it on my home theater receiver, but I had to use the headphone jack and since it wasn’t 3.5mm I had to use an adapter for the standard 1/4″ (6.3mm) headphone jack. I tried several adapters, but for whatever reason I had to fiddle around quite a bit to get it to transmit in stereo. So I just use the TV’s 3.5mm audio out. The only downside of that is that to control volume I can’t use my home theater’s or TV’s volume controls to control the headphone volume. The Audiomate’s receiver has it’s own volume controls but once set, I very rarely need to change it.

When reading some of the reviews before buying, I saw lots of complaints about Audiomate’s range. It’s definitely not as good as the Sennheiser’s range, and if I wander too far from the transmitter there is some distortion, but in typical use I haven’t had any problems.


Leave a Comment