My aunt blasts the TV volume and the upstairs neighbours are unhappy
February 3, 2021 2:46 PM   Subscribe

My elderly aunt has some hearing loss and watches TV so loud that it's disturbing the upstairs neighbours. They've asked her to lower the volume many times, but she forgets immediately. She has hearing aids, but refuses to wear them. They have now complained to me, the landlord. How can I handle this situation?

My elderly aunt lives alone. She is hard of hearing and has memory loss. She has hearing aids that she hates wearing, especially when she's home alone. Because of this, she's taken to blasting the volume on her TV. She can't leave home because of covid, and she recently lost her husband and is feeling understandably lonely and isolated. Her TV is on literally all day long. It frequently stays on through the night, too, and as she falls asleep in front of the TV.

The very polite upstairs tenants are both WFH and have young children that take naps during the day and go to bed early. They have apparently asked her many times to reduce the volume, which she always agrees to, only to forget the following day. They have now contacted me, the landlord, and asked me to intervene because the loud volume is disrupting their sleep and productivity.

Because of her short term memory issues (and honestly, her stubbornness), she will not remember that the volume level is bothering the people upstairs. She will also not ever get into the habit of wearing her hearing aids while she's alone. From my experience in dealing with her over other issues, I know that it's very difficult if not impossible to get help her build a new habit. I know that asking her to change her routine in any way will not be successful.

I want her to continue being able to watch TV without bothering the upstairs neighbours. I know I could call her every evening and ask her to turn it down, but that would be very unpleasant for both of us. She always feels absolutely terrible that she's forgotten, and on my side, I've been experiencing higher than usual levels of stress due to other reasons that are causing me to have less patience. I'd like to find a solution that doesn't require too much involvement from me. I'm wondering how I can go about this. One solution I thought of was somehow limiting the volume level to non-disruptive levels, therefore encouraging my aunt to wear her hearing aids to hear the TV. There is no setting on the TV to do this. Is there another way for me to cap the volume somehow?

I'm also open to other suggestions on how to handle this situation.
posted by ohmy to Human Relations (40 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is it possible to put a note on the TV or the remote reminding her?
posted by mcduff at 2:51 PM on February 3, 2021 [6 favorites]

You can buy on Amazon devices to convert TV audio to go to bluetooth headphones. This may be a stretch for your aunt's technical abilities, but if you got it set up well it could completely solve the problem. It depends on how much technical support you're willing to provide.
posted by lookoutbelow at 2:54 PM on February 3, 2021 [13 favorites]

Best answer: They make wireless headphones specifically for televisions that are pretty plug and play, and if the sound to the TV goes to the headphones by default instead of playing out loud, that might help her remember to use them?
posted by foxfirefey at 2:59 PM on February 3, 2021 [27 favorites]

Best answer: I have these TV headphones. They're easy to set up (though you would have to do it for her). They've been successful for a relative that has hearing loss but doesn't like wearing a hearing aid. We ended up getting more headphones because everyone wanted a set. It's nice to be able to go to the kitchen or bathroom or wherever and still be able to hear the TV, so you might be able to sell it as a perk to make her life better, and not just something to stop the neighbors complaining.

They just work, which is nice. If the TV is on, the headset picks up the audio - no action required. The volume in the headphones is independent form the TV, so the TV could even be muted and the headphones They are basically a radio in the shape of headphones (on/of switch, volume dial, tune in dial), so they're usable by my older relative who isn't otherwise great with technology. I dunno if it will work, but it could be worth a try?
posted by Garm at 3:00 PM on February 3, 2021 [21 favorites]

At the very least I would buy her a TV that turns off at after a certain period of inactivity or at a certain hour. The thought of trying to put small kids to bed with a blaring tv gives me second hand stress. I might also try to install some sound damping interior solutions. This is a untenable situation for the family upstairs.

I know you can buy sound limiting headphones, so maybe there is a hardware solution you can rig up, not necessarily headphones, but external speakers that she can't get too loud.

Lastly, maybe just move her chair closet to the tv?
posted by stormygrey at 3:02 PM on February 3, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: If she won't wear headphones, you could plug in a set of external speakers and set them up near, and pointed at, her seating position. For her same perceived level of volume, they will be producing less sound overall.
posted by kickingtheground at 3:05 PM on February 3, 2021 [38 favorites]

I have hearing impairment and don't generally wear hearing aid(s) around the house. I turn the tv up high and still use captions. I have used those headsets, cheap version that had a bit of delay, which was annoying, but manageable. Check to see if you can permanently lower the volume, forcing her to use the headset. Moving the tv closer is a good idea, too.

Encourage the neighbors to visit whenever the sound is too loud. And, as much or more so, to visit with small treats when the sound is okay as positive reinforcement. The family could supply them with small treats to deliver or leave at the door. Magazines, fruit, kids' drawings.
posted by theora55 at 3:10 PM on February 3, 2021

You could disable the volume buttons on her remote. And if the TV has actual volume controls on the screen, maybe taping over them would help her remember?

Regardless of what method you pick, setting the tv to display closed captioning could also help.
posted by veery at 3:10 PM on February 3, 2021 [10 favorites]

Some tvs have a "hotel mode."

Maybe the TV could be put on a timer switch?

Is there carpet in the tv room already?
posted by oceano at 3:20 PM on February 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

Encourage the neighbors to visit whenever the sound is too loud. And, as much or more so, to visit with small treats when the sound is okay as positive reinforcement. The family could supply them with small treats to deliver or leave at the door. Magazines, fruit, kids' drawings.

This seems like an awfully big burden to put on the neighbors, especially since there's no reason, based on her previous inaction, to think it would have any effect.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:22 PM on February 3, 2021 [85 favorites]

Wireless headphones seem like the best option. Set them up for her. Make sure they are easy to charge.
Make sure their charging station is near the TV so she sees them when she sits down to watch. Tell the neighbors to let you know if she's not using them so you can call and remind her if they complain again...

Tough situation, sorry it's falling to you to deal with.
posted by signsofrain at 3:24 PM on February 3, 2021

In case headphones won't work for some reason (like, if you think she won't wear them), is there a different room where her TV-watching would be less disruptive to the neighbors?

Slightly annoying but relatively easy would be to get some foam acoustic absorbing panels - I used to live with musicians, and these do a pretty good job of dampening noise - you could line her TV-room ceiling with them.
posted by coffeecat at 3:26 PM on February 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Wireless headphones are the answer. They're not a big deal to set up. We did this to facilitate my spouse's watching TV while on the exercise bike and it's been great. I think you can set it up so the headphones are the default audio output mode, so she can't forget.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:27 PM on February 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Wireless headphones are a good options, but if you think she won't use them, you can also get chair speakers (I have no idea if these ones specifically are any good, the link is just an example). Then the volume will seem loud enough to her, but won't actually be very loud for the neighbors.
posted by mjcon at 3:33 PM on February 3, 2021 [17 favorites]

My suggestion may not be workable but just in case: do you know if her hearing aids have bluetooth? Mine do and I use them with my laptop all the time to watch stuff. If you can pair it with her TV, perhaps she might consider wearing her hearing aids and using them for the TV (the same as she would with the wireless headphones suggested above).
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 3:34 PM on February 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

It probably wouldn't hurt to adjust audio settings (e.g. Dynamic Range Compression).
posted by oceano at 3:34 PM on February 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

We had an issue like this with my grandfather several years ago. The solution was wireless speakers with the sending unit plugged into the TV and the speaker behind his chair. She will not want to use headphones. I am sure there may be a more elegant solution these days with Bluetooth, but this is a more practical solution unless you want to keep providing tech support.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 3:42 PM on February 3, 2021 [22 favorites]

Best answer: I hate to be the turd in the punchbowl, but there might be something else going on. She is alone, has memory issues, and resists using something that can make her life easier. I'd wager that she will resist headphones too, or any attempt to modify her behavior. She might need a caregiver, or an assisted living situation. I know it sucks a lot ! My family spent a year and a half in denial about Mom's dementia. Just check it out.
posted by lobstah at 3:45 PM on February 3, 2021 [42 favorites]

If you are tempted to do any soundproofing, please read this article about the effectiveness and potential dangers of acoustic foam and consult a professional.

Headband speakers might appeal to your aunt. I can’t vouch for this brand but there are lots of kinds available.
posted by corey flood at 4:09 PM on February 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

If bluetooth ends up being too complicated (sometimes bluetooth can disconnect itself, plus they’d have to be charged), see if you can rig up wired headphones that have decent reach to where she likes to sit & can just live on the arm of the chair or couch. Presumably they could stay plugged in like speakers would so there’s no real issue of her remembering to do something beyond “no sound, why is there no sound...oh, I don’t have the headphones on.”

Also, bless you for trying to troubleshoot this. I’m someone sensitive to noise and it’s heartening to see someone trying to find solutions at the source, whether they work or not.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:10 PM on February 3, 2021 [8 favorites]

Do the upstairs neighbors have rugs? It might catch some sound. You could offer to reimburse them for a thick rug and rug pad of their choice. It isn’t the whole solution, obviously, but this might be a case of lots of layers of small solutions if headphones don’t work.
posted by john_snow at 4:40 PM on February 3, 2021

Depending on the TV model, it may be possible to limit the maximum volume of the TV. You could set it to a volume that does not bother the upstairs neighbors, and then maybe your aunt will wear her hearing aids if it's still too soft.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 5:18 PM on February 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

The Sony Bravia has a function to set the upper limit of volume, other high-end TVs might too. My Amazon Fire TV has a way to connect my phone as an "extra" remote control and I could in theory turn down the volume from afar this way if someone were using my Fire TV account specifically. Your solution is likely going to involve a new TV for your aunt.

I set reminders for my older mom to do things using an Alexa Dot, it speaks a reminder to her daily not to forget her phone and other daily activities at set times; perhaps a Dot with a daily reminder at set times of the day to remember to be courteous to upstairs neighbors and turn down the TV could work?
posted by juniperesque at 5:19 PM on February 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

Also, consider just putting a timer (could be wi-fi or just a dumb time-based one) on her TV outlet so that it will also just turn off after, say 8pm.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 5:35 PM on February 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

This soundbar targeted at the hotel market lets you set a max volume. Headphones seem more promising in terms of letting her actually hear the tv though.
posted by yarrow at 5:54 PM on February 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I feel that a stubborn person with memory loss (and probably some shame/resistance about their disabilities) will not use headphones. I’d go with the upstairs rug/ceiling dampening combo as a set-it-and-forget-it option.
posted by matildaben at 5:59 PM on February 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you have the money, this is worth buying a new TV where you can limit the volume or wire the output to a speaker near her chair.
posted by batter_my_heart at 6:18 PM on February 3, 2021 [7 favorites]

A lot of great suggestions above for managing speakers and/or sound production. And timers, definitely timers so that the TV auto-offs after a certain duration.

I'm wondering if her need for sound is related to the loneliness -- if she has the TV on to keep her company. I have relatives who used to have the TV all the time, for similar reasons, or just plain for background ambience (I shudder, but that's their habit). In which case ... maybe introduce her favorite type of music in another room, again on a timer and/or motion sensor, on the hope that this will be more bearable for the upstairs people, and that it might draw her away from needing the TV all the time.

My Roku remote has a headphone plug, and I use it all the time, I can distinguish TV conversations a lot better that way.
posted by Dashy at 6:40 PM on February 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

see if you can rig up wired headphones that have decent reach to where she likes to sit

Yeah I don't think anything that will either require her to use hearing aids or require her to learn a thing will be useful. I suggest headphones, nice comfy ones, with a very long cord. She can leave the TV on all night if she wants. Is the TV her bedroom or another room? Would moving it to another room make a difference? Other options that make sense are TV on a timed outlet, TV on a cart that she can move a lot closer to her, or literally a TV with a remote that your neighbors have a copy of so that they could also turn it down or off. This is kind of the nuclear option, but we used to do this with my dad and it was a strange but actually kinda functional option.
posted by jessamyn at 7:00 PM on February 3, 2021 [6 favorites]

Adding rugs is not going to do anything. Please don't force your tenants to deal with things that aren't going to work.

If you know anyone with electronics background, they could wire a resistor in series with the tv speakers which will permanently lower the volume if the above solutions don't work. Stuffing some cotton in the speaker hole might also work.
posted by flimflam at 7:08 PM on February 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: This is tough. She may not be able to live in an apartment situation without daily hands-on help if she’s not willing/able to keep up her end of the decent neighbor bargain on her own. Unfortunately as the landlord to you do need to enforce this. Could you pay for some help?
posted by kapers at 7:24 PM on February 3, 2021 [10 favorites]

You may be able to stream the tv sound directly to her heating aides. Of course you’ll need to first get her to wear the aides, but she may enjoy listening this way if you can get her to try it.
posted by david1230 at 7:27 PM on February 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Neckband speaker aka personal soundbar. That's assuming you can make your TV audio Bluetooth compatible. But that's not too hard in itself.

Those all speakers are inches from her own ears, so she won't need to turn them up. The catch is, you'll need to charge them, but with supposedly 12 hours of battery life, should not be too hard to keep it up.
posted by kschang at 12:29 AM on February 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

She always feels absolutely terrible that she's forgotten suggests to me that visual reminders should be part of the solution. A reminder note taped to the bottom bezel of the screen to say HIGH VOLUME DISTURBS THE NEIGHBOURS might be enough.

If it's possible to find a specific volume level that's loud enough for her to hear the dialogue (maybe augmented with subtitles, if that's an option) without the sound effects or the advert breaks being too loud for her neighbours, I'd add that to the note on the TV and stick a little MAX 45 (or whatever) note by the volume controls on the remote too.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:38 AM on February 4, 2021

I don't have hearing problems but I live in a small block of flats and I'm conscious of TV sounds form neighbours. I've used these headphones for several years now and they're really excellent. I've probably had them for ten years and only recently needed to switch out the rechargeable batteries for new ones.

No bluetooth needed, just an audio jack on the back of the TV. Then your aunt can have the sound up as loud as she wants and not disturb anyone else.
posted by essexjan at 2:40 AM on February 4, 2021

Currently dealing with this with my father-in-law in our house. He will not wear his hearing aids. He will not wear the special TV-only wireless headphones we got him a few years ago. He will not read sub-titles.

Thankfully, for us - the room that the TV is in, is very very soundproof. But, we cannot watch anything together with him and my mother-in-law anymore - it is painfully loud (and I have some partial hearing loss)

Years ago, for my grandfather - we run an audio extension cable from the TV to where he would normally sit ("his spot") - then a little amplifier/booster for some quality "over-the-ear" headphones. That setup was perfect for him.

(For my hearing loss - I have just found that my Roku will stream the audio to my phone, and then I can use whatever headphones I want, including bluetooth ones - apparently Apple TV's can do the same thing with AirPods directly - now - it is only for 1-person at the moment - but, I can watch my action/horror/obnoxious crap when people are either sleeping, or doing something else - and over the last 7-years, I have found that I prefer having sub-titles on all the time)
posted by rozcakj at 6:16 AM on February 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Quick question about the hearing aids: why does she hate wearing them? There’s lots of potential reasons—maybe they’re uncomfortable, or they don’t work well, or she forgets them but says she hates them to cover up the fact that she forgot, or she loses them, etc—but maybe figuring out which it is and addressing it could help? It’s possible that getting her a new kind, or calibrating them differently, or setting up a system so she can find them, or helping her remember to change the batteries (or whatever it is) could help both the neighbors and her.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 4:09 PM on February 4, 2021

A parametric speaker may work, as it won't require her to use a headphone.
posted by Sophont at 11:09 AM on February 5, 2021

this item came across my feed today, appears to be designed for exactly this scenario. Just put it next to her TV watching chair.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:04 AM on February 8, 2021

FWIW, there's a Kickstarter project that that uses beamshaping so only you can hear the sound, and no one else, no headphone required. The problem is the range seems limited, and it's VERY expensive.
posted by kschang at 11:53 AM on March 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

« Older Please give me your best tips on interviewing...   |   How to write about sex/gender in science fiction... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.