TV Listening – Wireless Infrared Receivers & Infrared Transmitters

By AudioMan Updated on Monday, January 25, 2016

TV listening systems by Williams Sound & Sennheiser are ADA compliant IR sound systems using infrared transmitters & infrared receivers.

Listening to TV without a hearing aid is now possible for many people with hearing loss. Many people with hearing loss are finding that listening to their favorite TV program has become a solitary experience. Turning up the volume on the remote not only causes discomfort to friends and family in the same room, but also can alienate neighbors. What was once a friendly social experience has become, for some, a source of frustration.

Infrared TV listening systems go a long way toward solving this problem by allowing the volume to be set at a comfortable level for all.

How do wireless infrared TV listening systems work?

Just like FM listening systems, the infrared listening systems require both a transmitter and a receiver. At one time, however, infrared digital listening systems (unlike their FM analog counterparts) were limited to large venues such as theaters, museums and conference centers. This is because they required special fixed transmitters with complex radiator systems to properly disperse IR signals. Recently, however, infrared systems are now made for small home environments as well.

In the case of infrared TV listening systems, the fixed IR transmitter connects directly to your TV (or radio, VCR, DVD) through the output jacks of the TV. The Williams or Sennheiser IR transmitters are placed physically next to the TV. Alternatively, if your TV has no audio outputs, an external microphone is included with the IR systems which can be placed near the loudspeaker. This is especially useful if you are going to adapt your TV listening IR system to other media centers such as radios, VCRs and DVDs which may not have convenient audio outputs.

Because most living rooms (or TV rooms) are small, the IR signal from the fixed transmitter easily covers the viewing or listening area. In general, IR signals travel clearly up to 30 feet away (line-of-sight) using infrared electromagnetic waves.

The IR signal is picked up by the specially designed receiver and converted to sound heard through a personal stetho-headset (shown above).

The volume on your personal IR receiver can be adjusted to a level which is comfortable for you the wearer, even if that comfort level would be too loud for others in the room (or next-door).

TV listening can again be a group activity pleasurable for all.

TV listening can be adapted for persons wearing hearing aids.

The Williams and Sennheiser TV listening systems are not limited to one receiver. More than one IR receiver can work with a single IR transmitter so you adjust volume separately for each audience member.

In addition, the new Infrared TV listening systems are designed to work with hearing aids. This is accomplished in different ways for Williams and Sennheiser, but both rely on a compatible IR receiver which uses an induction loop to accommodate your hearing aid. Check the product outlines below to make sure that the IR transmitter works with the IR receiver for your hearing aid.

What are the advantages (and disadvantages) of an IR TV listening system compared to an FM TV listening system such as the Williams Sound PockeTalker?

The biggest advantage of an infrared TV listening system compared to an FM TV listening system is the lack of interference from surrounding electromagnetic sources like radios, wireless phones and washing machines (really anything with an engine is a potential problem). What this means is that your receiver will not be overwhelmed by background noise and, also, that your TV transmitter will not bleed into neighboring rooms or apartments. As Robert Frost wrote, “good walls make good neighbors.”

Also, while both IR TV listening and FM TV listening systems have receivers compatible with hearing aids there is more choice in this area among the IR systems.

All the IR TV listening systems feature a compression driver for volume attenuation of louder passages, such as commercials. What this means is that the system automatically adjusts volume when the TV commercials come on. What a great idea!

The major disadvantage of an infrared TV listening system compared to an FM TV listening system is price. Typically a Williams Sound PockeTalker costs around 30%-40% less for comparable room coverage.

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