The Hidden TV Feature That Might Fix Your Biggest Relationship Woe

updated Apr 13, 2021
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Whether you’re the only person in your home who likes to catch up on Bravo, or someone who is often unwinding with your Netflix queue as a housemate is trying to sleep, it’s very easy to be suddenly aware of how loud your television is. On one hand, you don’t want to miss a single plot point, but on the other, the volume seems to go from “too quiet” to “too loud” in a heartbeat. Subtitles can work, but you have to watch the screen 100 percent of the time to understand what’s going on. If only technology had a solve for this…

Ask and it shall appear. Or at least that’s how it felt when Apartment Therapy’s Home Projects Editor, Megan, raved to me about a setting on her Roku streambar attachment that solved one of her biggest relationship woes: She likes to watch TV in the basement at night, while her partner is playing video games on the computer with his friends. To make sure she can hear what’s happening on TV while not disturbing him, she activates Private Listening mode, which transfers the sound from her TV’s speakers to her noise-canceling earphones. Problem solved.

Private Listening mode is simple enough to set up, and works through any Roku device’s smartphone app. (This app has also saved me in a major pinch: When my remote malfunctioned and died, I found I could use the app to control my Roku TV until a replacement arrived.) Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Download the Roku TV app and make sure your TV and your phone are on the same wireless network. (If you don’t have a Roku TV, you may still be in luck — plenty of smart TVs feature app integrations, so check your user manual or ask your manufacturer’s customer support for tips.)

Step 2: Plug your headphones into your phone, or connect them via Bluetooth. Then, open the Roku TV app, and tap the headphone button on the remote screen.

You disconnect your headphones by tapping the button again, or simply unplugging them.

There are plenty of other ways to redirect your television’s sound, especially if you don’t have a Roku TV. Both Amazon Fire TVs and Android TVs have similar features, PC Magazine notes, and if your television isn’t a smart TV but does have a headphone jack, you can invest in an extra-long cable to span the difference between your TV and your couch or bed. You can also use a Bluetooth-enabled video game system if you have one, or purchase a Bluetooth transmitter made specifically for televisions.

And just like that — an instantly harmonious household. Well, at least a quieter one.