Hearing loss as we age – and devices to help us short of expensive hearing aids – is something we’ve talked about before, including speaker systems and sound bars designed to help us hear more clearly. Now here are wireless headphones designed specifically for people with some hearing loss, to use to listen to the TV, or music on a smartphone, or even take phone calls.
The TL100 TV Listener comes from Clarity, a division of Plantronics, the well-known headset maker whose products go back to the early days of American astronauts. The Clarity division focuses more specifically on telephones and related products for seniors with hearing loss.
I say all that as a preface because there are many commercially available wireless headphones in many price ranges, including Apple’s new AirPods, that can be used to listen to television, music, or for phone calls.
But the TL100 is made specifically for seniors and can pair both with its own Bluetooth transmitter next to your TV and your mobile phone, at the same time. On the left earpiece, there’s a control to boost volume, but it doesn’t change the regular volume of your TV or phone, which is part of the idea.
Clarity is selling the headphones as a way for one person – they seem to feel it will be the man – to wear them while watching TV with a partner – a woman – who can hear the TV just fine. So HE wears the headphones with a volume boost, while SHE listens directly without the need to blast the TV up to 11. That may or may not be your living situation. The headphones can also be used while the user’s spouse, mate, significant other, whoever, doesn’t want to hear the TV at all, while reading, sleeping, etc.
The TL100, when also linked Bluetooth to your phone, allows you to answer (or ignore) calls while watching TV and it mutes the TV sound if you talk on the phone. For some functions, such as on/off and volume, there’s a voice prompt in your ears.
Does it work? Yes.
Is the sound quality good? Also yes.
Can you hook it up easily to your TV? Well, it depends.
The little transmitter box has only two input options: a 3.5 mm headphone type jack, or a pair of RCA connectors. You may have noticed that many TVs, especially the newer, flatter ones, don’t have headphone outputs or RCA jacks, but possibly only a digital or optical audio out connection. So you’d need to purchase a digital/optical to RCA converter box to connect the TL100’s transmitter, yet another thing to plug into power. If your TV does have a headphone jack, plugging the TL100’s box into it will likely kill the TV sound completely – so much for togetherness on the sofa. Another connection option is to use the audio output from your cable box. Many still have RCA connectors, but if you’re streaming video not through the cable box, unfortunately that won’t help.
My TV only has an optical out, but I use a sound bar that has a headphone jack, and it gave me the option of leaving the sound bar audio on or off with a “headphone” – in this case the TL100 transmitter – plugged in.
The Clarity TL100 comes with two power supplies, one for the transmitter box and the other to charge the headphones, a charge that they say can last up to 18 hours, presuming you remember to turn it off when not using it. It also comes with two sets of audio cables, RCA to RCA and 3.5mm to RCA.