What audio for slightly hearing-impaired?

OpenSource Ghost

Limp Gawd
Feb 14, 2022
I have a relative who has some hearing issues and can't stand immersive audio or audio that "spreads out" across the room or "movie-theater" type of audio. One of the complaints about such immersive audio that "spreads out" is that increasing volume to maximum doesn't produce clear sounds and clear voices.

That person likes audio that comes out of phones and tablets because voices sound clear and audio isn't "spread out". The "clear voices" that my relative likes sound kind of like hissing that tends to irritate my ears and I can hear such audio across rooms, even at low volume. Perhaps that explains the kind of hearing problem my relative has and the kind of audio equipment needed.

I am am not into audio, I don't know how to help, except for adjusting settings on TV, playback devices, and asking around on the internet. Headphones/in-ear phones are not an option due to heaches.

What can I do? Typical presets adjusted on TV and/or playback devices don't do the trick. Audio always comes off as "spread out". What kind of speakers or audio bar can I get for my relative?


[H]F Junkie
Jun 7, 2007
Get speakers designed to play audio where you want to preserve the clarity. Use "classical" or "vocal" presets, maybe "pop". Disable virtual soundspace/surround. Put down a rug, put foam soundboards up, and arrange furnature and speakers for optimum audio.

Also, consider hearing aids or a good set of headphones if listening alone.


Dec 15, 2010
One problem that some people have with clearly hearing voices with a surround sound setup is that the speakers you can buy as a set often cheap out on the center channel speaker which is generally where all your dialogue comes out, this causes the dialogue to get drowned out by other audio and turning the volume up doesn't help. For instance my old 5.1 pc speakers used the same exact speaker for all 5 satellites and dialogue in games and movies the dialogue often got drowned out if there was other background noise while my current setup uses a proper center channel speaker(that was almost as expensive as the 2 other front ones combined) and with this setup dialogue is much clearer and easier to understand even with a lot of background noise(at all volumes). It also probably helps that I'm using a receiver with good room correction but simply boosting the center channel would probably help with that too.

If that really isn't the issue and headphones are out then maybe a pair of speakers placed fairly close together. A stereo or mono soundbar might be a good fit but many soundbars these days have a center channel or do some sort of pseudo surround that might be even worse than regular surround, like speaker sets the center channel is often weak on them too.

Good home theater equipment stores often have test rooms set up with different speaker setups that can be demoed, that might be good way to figure out what works best for them.


Jan 26, 2010
If it were my relative, I'd go with the spread out theory and try a receiver set to stereo and put the speakers as close together as possible. Can't get any less spread out, unless a receiver will downmix to mono for you. Don't worry about if the speakers are in-front of the tv, get them right next to each other. If that works, you'll need to figure out how to have the speakers like that without blocking the tv.


Supreme [H]ardness
Sep 24, 2001
The short is your relative doesn't know audio and is speaking nonsense. Ebernanut more or less hit it on the head. Having an excellent center channel is the important speaker for dialog.

However, it doesn't sound like your relative even cares about high-fidelity sound and it is likely that they don't want to be "convinced" either.

So I'd more or less buy a "high tier" sound bar and call it a day. As much as I think Bose sucks, your relative is probably the perfect candidate for something like a Bose soundbar (get something like the Soundbar 300). The frequencies will be highly tuned to its small speakers, and it will deliver crisp dialog audio (of course for discerning audiophiles at the cost of cutting a lot of frequencies and likely crap mids).

It also will directly play into the belief from said relative that "spreading your audio out" is bad and soundbar coming from a "single location" is good. If they think a cell phone sounds good, it's not like they'll know good frequency response from bad - also considering that they likely need a hearing aid as well compounding the problem.


Nov 12, 2012
So do they have a hearing aid now?
It kind of reminds me of my dad before he got one. He was grumpy because it's frustrating not being able to hear properly. Once he finally gave in and got one he was much happier.


Apr 28, 2007
Metal dome or Ribbon tweeter speakers should help clarity, no need for a centre channel.
Too much bass will reduce treble clarity, muddying the sound, its a trade off. Less bass can really help.

If more clarity is needed than that, get a higher end DAC. Creatives top 2 DACs are good value.
Also, silver interconnects will increase the amount of detail presented a surprising amount.

I built ribbon tweeter speakers for a friends mum, she only hears from one ear and that ear has problems as well.
It really helped, even with her cheap, crap stack system.


Mar 29, 2006
I second the notion of getting a better center speaker, and maybe boosting it.

An entirely different approach would be to get a monitoring setup like musicians wear on stage, with earbuds and a wireless receiver on the belt.


Limp Gawd
Apr 1, 2022
Do you know what their hearing disability is, specifically? Hearing aids from a clinician are probably the easiest recommendation. Outside of that, some people lose certain or large portions of the frequency spectrum. You can try EQing lows/mids/highs separately to get some feedback. Don't bother spending money on fancy speakers or equipment for somebody hearing impaired, they just need volume and calibration.


Oct 28, 2001
A BBE Sonic Maximizer is a godsend for the hearing impaired even tho it isn't marketed as such. It's analog only tho.