A few weeks ago, I was experiencing a few issues with my eyesight. So, I booked an eyesight test and ended up with a shiny new pair of glasses. There’s nothing unusual about that and most of us make sure we have our eyesight regularly tested. But how many of us bother to do the same for our hearing?

There seems to be a certain amount of stigma about admitting to having difficulty hearing, but as we age many of us experience problems, especially when watching the TV. We end up turning up the sound and that’s probably when other people first notice that we have a a hearing problem.

Sennheiser’s TV Clear is an example of a new wave of “hearables” coming onto the market and is aimed at people who may have occasional difficulties hearing the TV properly. It’s something that happens to many of us as we get older when the upper frequencies become a little harder to discern. Sennheiser’s TV Clear is a discreet solution that offers an easy way to hear a TV through a pair of true wireless earbuds. The system includes voice clarity processing that makes the TV sound much clearer.

The kit consists of a special pair of true wireless earbuds and a tiny wireless TV Connector transmitter that can hook up with almost any TV using either an analog or digital connection. The TV Connector beams the TV sound to the earbuds which process the sound to make it clearer. It’s easy to set up and the transmitter is powered by a USB cable that can plug into one of a spare USB port on a TV or a basic USB phone charger.

Unlike a lot of Bluetooth technology, the Sennheiser TV Clear pairs the earbuds and transmitter by pressing a button on each device. It only needs to be done once and then every time the earbuds are taken out of their charging case and popped in the ears, the connection is made automatically. It’s as easy as that.

Because the TV transmitter connects to the optical output of a TV, it can have its own independent volume level without affecting the main audio output from the TV. This means you get to listen to the TV on the earbuds while everyone else can listening via the TV’s speaker or soundbar. You get to adjust the volume level to suit your hearing just by pressing the control buttons on the earbuds.

A click on the right earbud raises the volume by a notch; a click on the left drops it down a level without affecting the TV’s audio output. The TV can even be muted and listened to solely through the earbuds. It’s a great way of watching movies late at night without waking anyone else in the house.

The Sennheiser TV Clear uses a proprietary wireless technology that’s based on Bluetooth, but it can’t be used with regular Bluetooth earbuds and headphones; and there’s a good reason for that. The TV Clear system processes the sound and offers five steps of voice clarity, depending on how much hearing difficulty the user has. One long press on the right earbud shifts the processing up a notch by adding more upper frequency. The transmission is fast enough to ensure there are no latency issues and that means the image on the TV always stays in sync with the audio. It can be used for gaming too, thanks to that low latency.

Another nifty feature of this little gadget is how it can be paired with a smartphone and used as a regular pair of Bluetooth earbuds. It’s a multipoint compliant and that means you can be listening to the TV with the earbuds and if your phone rings, you can simply press the earbud and the audio will switch from the TV to the phone call. It’s seamless and so handy.

The microphones built into the earbuds are very effective at picking up voices and the design of the ear tips is slightly open and non-occluded, making it easy to hear your own voice and what’s going on around you. There’s also a Transparency mode that can amplify the sounds going on around you, enabling you to hear other people or even be aware of hazards, like a cat creeping up to steal your TV snacks.

There’s an app to accompany the TV Clear which can be used to change the settings and apply over-the-air firmware upgrades with an iOS or Android device. Sennheiser ships the earbuds with a selection of ear tips in a range of sizes, so they should fit almost any ear size, creating a comfortable fit for those boxset bingeing sessions.

I know the idea of taking the first step on the road toward better hearing is something that causes some people concern. The Sennheiser TV Clear is not a hearing aid and neither is it a medical device, but it does offer help to anyone who has mild difficulty hearing the TV. The voice clarity processing makes the TV sound much clearer. I found the second-level setting was just about right for me, so I hope it will be a while before I need a proper hearing aid.

However, should that day come, it’s good to know that the Sennheiser TV Clear transmitter is compatible with hearing aids made by Sonova AG, the world’s largest manufacturer of hearing aids and the licensee of Sennheiser’s consumer range of earbuds and headphones. And if you have a partner with hearing difficulties, you can buy an extra pair of earbuds from Sennheiser because the transmitter can send signals to more than one user at the same time.

Hearing difficulties are one of the last health taboos but there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you do suffer hearing difficulties when watching TV as grow older. There’s no reason why you should struggle to hear the TV clearly and miss important dialog.

Verdict: Sennheiser’s TV Clear is a trouble-free solution that’s great for watching TV late at night when the rest of the household has gone to bed. There are cheaper solutions like fitting a regular Bluetooth transmitter to a TV and pairing it with a pair of true wireless earbuds, but you may notice lip-sync issues due to latency problems. Also, the Sennheiser TV Clear offers up to 15 hours of continuous use on a single charge, while the charging case holds a total playing time of up to 37 hours. The case can even be charged wirelessly, which makes it easy to keep the earbuds fully topped up and ready for use. The Sennheiser TV Clear may not be the cheapest solution for clearer TV sound, but it is probably the easiest and the most trouble-free. And it’s about the same price as a good pair of glasses.

Pricing & Availability: Sennheiser TV Clear is available now and costs £349 / $399 / €399.

More info: sennheiser.com

Tech Specs:

  • Wearing style: True Wireless stereo earphones.
  • Ear coupling: Ear canal with retention.
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2 compliant, class 1, 10mW (max).
  • Modulation: 2400.0MHz to 2483.5MHz.
  • Supported Profiles: A2DP (SBC), HFP (CVSD, mSBC), AVRCP, DID.
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic.
  • Transducer size: 6mm.
  • Speaker frequency range: 20Hz to 20kHz.
  • Speaker sensitivity: 100.5 dBSPL (1 kHz / 1 mW).
  • THD, total harmonic distortion: < 0,5% (1kHz / 94dB).
  • Noise cancellation: Passive damping with Ambient Awareness mode.
  • Microphone principle: MEMS.
  • Frequency response (microphone): 100Hz to 10kHz.
  • Mic pick-up pattern: 1 mic for Ambient Awareness mode; 2 beamforming mics for calls
  • Battery time: 15 hrs with TV Connector / Up to 12 hrs with A2DP.
  • Charging time: 2 hrs for full charge; 3 hrs for wireless Qi-Charging.
  • Battery type: Built-in Lithium-Ion rechargeable.
  • Power supply: 5 V⎓, 600 mA max, USB-C socket at charging case; Qi Wireless charging.
  • Weight: 63.7 g (earbuds and charging case) / 5.7 g (6.9 g with ear coupling).
  • App support: TV Clear App for iOS and Android.
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