Q: My 94-year-old mother-in-law can hear only out of her right ear, and that needs a hearing aid. This makes watching TV difficult for her — to say nothing of the other people in the room. Is there a Bluetooth speaker that we can connect to the TV and put on a table next to her chair to help her hear but that doesn’t mute the TV sound for everyone else? We tried soundbars, but they didn’t help her. Headphones aren’t an option because she won’t wear them.
A: For some reason, lots of television sound and soundbar questions are coming in again. Yours will allow me to discuss not only soundbars, but using a speaker remotely from the television.
I’m going to start by assuming that when you ask about a “Bluetooth speaker,” you are using the term generically for wireless speakers. Bluetooth does not work well for television applications because of lip sync problems.
The challenge, as I understand it, is that you need a solution that will allow everyone in the room to hear the television sound while transmitting a lag-free signal to your mother-in-law’s remote speaker.
Last year, I wrote a column about the ZVOX AccuVoice AV200 TV Speaker. This compact soundbar is specially designed to lift the dialogue out of television soundtracks, making it much easier to hear and understand. This might be enough to solve your mother-in-law’s problem without the remote speaker. The AccuVoice AV200 TV Speaker (zvox.com) is normally $249, but under a special promotion, you can buy it for $179. The promotion runs until June 17, which happens to be Father’s Day.
One of the speaker’s features I have not discussed before is its 3.5mm output jack. You can connect the speaker to the TV’s optical output, then connect something else — like a small wireless speaker — to the 3.5mm output and it will not mute the sound. For the wireless speaker, you want one with radio frequency (RF) transmission because it will not have the lip sync issues of a Bluetooth speaker. The RF speaker will come with a tiny transmitter you plug into the 3.5mm jack. Then you can place the speaker on the table next to your mother-in-law’s chair.
RF speakers are uncommon but not nonexistent. For your application I recommend the Serene Innovations TV-SB Portable Wireless TV Soundbox, which lists for $179 and sells for around $155 online. It has its own volume control and is easy to set up. It is available on Amazon or at sereneinnovations.com. With a ZVOX AccuVoice AV200 TV Speaker connected to the TV via the optical connection, and the TV-SB speaker next to your mother-in-law, everyone in the room should be happy.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.