Tuesday, November 28th, 2006
Wireless Headphones: Watch TV without Waking the Baby
A key technique in getting my daughter to sleep has been the creation of a zone of silence around her bedroom. As a baby, noises startled her awake. As a 2.5-year-old toddler, noises make her want to find out what Mom and Dad are doing while she’s stuck in bed.
We’re fortunate that our oddly designed L-shaped house has bedrooms at one end and a TV room behind a door at the other end (the previous owners built an addition to the house to create a studio apartment, but connected it to the main house via a doorway).
In a normal house, I’d create a zone of silence using headphones. Wired headphones for your computer are a no-brainer.
For a TV or stereo, how about wireless headphones?
TV Listener by Unisar (the sister company of baby products company Bebe Sounds) uses a wired transmitter to send sound from your audio or video equipment to your wireless headphones. A second headset can be purchased for your spouse. Sound volume is independently controlled on each headset so that Mom and Dad don’t argue.
(My wife has the annoying habit of turning the volume down when commercials come on because commercials are broadcast louder than TV programs. The net effect is that each time a TV program resumes, we have to re-negotiate how loud the TV should be.)
A costlier option is to buy a product like TV Ears, headphones intended for people with hearing impairments. They let you toggle volume, tone and balance and use rechargeable batteries. Some versions of TV Ears automatically reduce the volume of TV commercials.
Incidentally, a free option is to lower your TV’s volume and turn on the audio captioning functioning (an idea recently mentioned on ParentHacks). Many programs are captioned for the hearing impaired, but we use captioning almost every day when someone is talking on the phone, a vacuum cleaner is running, or a TV character’s speech is difficult to understand. After I got used to captioning, I found it not distracting most of the time, and realized there are a lot of words I subconsciously filter out when only listening to speech. Even live news networks have on-the-fly captioning (though with spelling mistakes).
My wife thinks I’m stupid, but I didn’t realize the silhouetted figure seen standing over Oskar Schindler’s grave at the end of Schindler’s List is Liam Neeson. When I rewatched the film with captions, I was told it was Liam Neeson. Captioning adds a lot of useful descriptions to subtle parts of a video program.
Unfortunately, the FCC recently began issuing permanent exemptions to producers of TV programs who feel such captioning is a financial burden instead of a standard part of the cost of doing business. Enjoy captioning while you can and hope that you have perfect hearing for the rest of your life.