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Why Are Movies More Difficult To Understand?

If you have hearing loss, you understand just how difficult watching movies can be.

But here is a news flash…sometimes even people with normal hearing have difficulty understanding TV shows and movies!

We have been scratching our heads about this one for quite some time.  Then several of our amazing patients forwarded an article to us that explains a lot!  Read on to understand why your hearing aids can’t solve all the problems when it comes to watching TV.

What Has Changed in Movie Production?

It’s no surprise that hearing loss makes understanding TV dialogue more difficult.  But it’s much more complicated than that. One reason is a shift in the way actors deliver their lines.

For example, Christopher Nolan, director of successful films TenetInterstellar, and The Dark Night Rises, purposely pushes boundaries to further blur dialogue in order to add mystery and enhance the experience. (Although this clearly does not enhance the experience if you have hearing loss!)

In “the old days”, actors would perform almost as if they were on stage. In recent years acting styles have become more “naturalistic” resulting in dialogue that is more difficult to understand.

Sound Quality

Changes in sound technology have made sound mixing more complex. Mixing sound for a movie theater compared to a DVD is completely different. Now there are more tracks to play with and more options to work on in terms of film production. These can overlay each other. In addition, some sound teams report they are treated as a low priority on movie sets.

Impact of Age-Related Hearing Loss

In particular, there are two aspects of age-related auditory changes that will impact how we track the dialogue in movies. The first is working memory, which is the ability to remember details of the story and simultaneously follow the storyline. Second is the speed of processing. As we get older, it is more difficult to keep up when people speak quickly. These changes start to happen at about age 30!

We also know that accents are challenging for people with hearing loss.  Accents are more common now, making movies even harder to interpret.

Our Top Tips for Understanding Movies and Television Shows

Difficulty understanding TV and movies is one of the most common complaints we hear.

While it can be irritating to experience, there are ways to overcome these issues. 

  1. Top-notch hearing technology that is working up to specifications and programmed precisely to your hearing profile.
  2. Use of accessories that stream directly to your hearing aids. Almost every hearing aid manufacturer offers these devices which bring the sound directly to you in a way that is easier to understand. Ask your audiologist.
  3. Watch old movies and TV shows! Movies and television shows produced before 1990 might be easier to understand. It was in the early 1990s that a shift to “more natural” recording became popular. People also tell us that game shows, news programs and sporting events are easier to understand on TV because typically only one person is speaking at a time.
  4. Do you have Apple TV? There is a Siri function that will help. Push the Microphone button on your Apple TV remote and say, “What did she/he say?”  Apple TV will skip back 10 seconds and temporarily turn on captions.
  5. Use captions. Captioning movies and TV shows can help you fill in the blanks.
  6. Reduce background noise.
  7. Educate friends and family: Let them know you can’t have a conversation and watch TV at the same time.
  8. Want to read the article we are referencing?  Here is the link.

If you’re someone who struggles with television dialogue, you’re not alone.

We deal with many patients with hearing difficulties who have complaints about understanding television.

Our doctors can comprehensively test your hearing to assess your individual listening requirements and work out a solution that’s right for you.

Just call us today to find out how we can help you.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Deborah Clark, Au.D.

Dr. Deborah Clark has been with Pacific Hearing Service since 1998. In January 2008, she became co-owner working first in the Menlo Park office and now managing the Los Altos office. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology and is certified by the American Board of Audiology. She was on the board of the Hearing Loss Association of America, California State Association from 2010 – 2013, and served as Vice President.

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