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How to listen to your TV with headphones

We’ll talk about everything you need to know so you can listen to your TV with headphones.

Sony XB900N wireless noise-canceling headphones
Image: Sony

When watching TV socially, you want speakers or a soundbar so everyone can hear what’s happening. However, there are many times when you want to watch TV without disturbing the other people in your home.

Maybe they don’t like the show you want to watch or want to avoid hearing the staccato thrum of machine guns in the latest Call of Duty title. You could want to watch late at night, and you want to avoid waking anyone up.

Whatever the reason, you want a good pair of headphones to listen to without bothering anyone.

Once you know that, it’s time to find some headphones that will work with your TV setup.

Do you have an older TV? You’ll probably want to explore wired options unless your couch is far away, in which case you want some way to add Bluetooth to your TV so you can sit anywhere.

Have you got a newer TV? You probably already have Bluetooth, and you can get some of the best noise-canceling headphones so you’re not bothered by other sounds in your house.

Whichever way you go, we’ll show you how to use headphones with your TV so the rest of the house can be quiet when you watch.

Wired headphones options

3.5mm headphone extender cable
Image: KnowTechie

If you’ve got a 3.5mm headphone jack, and don’t mind that your head will be tethered to your TV, like a weird spider, grab an extension cable for your headphones.

Any will do; make sure you get one long enough for wherever you want to sit. Otherwise, you’ll sit on the floor like an oversized toddler.

If your TV only has RCA output, you’ll need an RCA-to-3.5mm cable, but the same considerations still apply.

This might be the easiest option to set up, but it could be more annoying in practice.

People will trip over your headphone wire, you will trip over your headphone wire, and simple actions such as eating popcorn will invariably snag your eating hand in the headphone wire.

Yes, that wire will annoy almost anyone after a while. We don’t recommend this way; it was fine before wireless headphones became good, but now it’s better to use the newer technology.

Wireless headphones, because it’s the future

broski noise cancellation headphones
Image: Kevin Raposo / KnowTechie

If you’re serious about your viewing enjoyment, you know that having a wire limiting where you can sit near your TV will be sub-optimal.

Wireless is the way to go, allowing you to move freely and take advantage of other technological advancements such as noise canceling.

Once you’ve figured out which headphones you will use, it’s time to figure out how to connect them to your TV or streaming device of choice. We’ll show you how.

Oh, and one last thing before we start. You’ll have to pair your headphones to your streaming device or TV, so depending on your headphones, you might lose the ability to use them with your other devices without pairing them again.

If that’s an issue, you might want to buy a second pair of wireless headphones to dedicate to TV watching.

Amazon Fire TV

amazon fire tv dashboard
Image: Amazon

If your streaming device is from Amazon, or if you have one of the TV sets that comes with inbuilt Fire TV, you’ll have a wireless option immediately available in Bluetooth.

Fire TV can connect to most Bluetooth devices, from controllers to keyboards and, yes, to headphones.

Just pair your favorite Bluetooth headphones to your Fire TV, just like you would with your smartphone.

  1. Go to Settings, then select Controllers & Bluetooth Devices.
  1. Select Other devices, then Add New Device.
  1. Turn your headphones into Pairing Mode (check your manual), and select them when their name turns up on your screen.

Now your Fire TV with stream audio to your headphones while they’re turned on and connected.

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03/07/2024 07:47 am GMT

Roku

roku remote apple tv plus
Image: KnowTechie

If you’ve got a Roku streaming device or TV with Roku inside, you don’t usually get Bluetooth, but that doesn’t mean you can’t listen to your audio wirelessly.

If you have the upgraded remote, you can plug in a pair of headphones and listen that way. If not, you can listen using the Roku smartphone app, with a feature called Private Listening.

  1. Download the Roku app for your device, either iOS or Android.
  1. Pair it with your Roku device.
  1. Once the app is paired, you can plug any headphones that work with your device (yes even Bluetooth ones), and it’ll stream the audio to you instead of playing it on the TV.

It’s basically the same as if you have the higher end Roku remote that comes with the Roku Ultra, just with your choice of headphones and the smartphone you already own.

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Android TV

android tv dashboard
Image: Google

If your TV uses the Android TV platform or you have an Nvidia Shield device, you can also use Bluetooth audio devices.

  1. Head into Settings and find Remote & Accessories.
  1. Select Add Accessory, and put your Bluetooth headphones into Pairing mode (see the manual that came with them if you can’t remember how).
  1. Select the headphones when they turn up in the onscreen list.

When your headphones are on, you’ll always get your Android TV’s audio through them instead of your TV’s speakers.

Apple TV

apple tv 4k
Image: KnowTechie

If you have an Apple TV, you can also connect your headphones with Bluetooth and enjoy listening to your shows in peace.

  1. Put your headphones in pairing mode.
  1. Use the Apple TV remote to navigate to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth.
  1. Select your headphones from the list.

Now while your headphones and the Apple TV are on, you’ll be able to send the audio to your headphones. This is even easier if you own AirPods, as they will automatically switch to the Apple TV if you start watching.

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03/07/2024 06:23 am GMT

Bluetooth Transmitter

bluetooth transmitters
Image: KnowTechie

If you don’t have a streaming device or TV that supports wireless audio via Bluetooth, it’s pretty simple to add that yourself.

All you need is a Bluetooth transmitter, which will cheaply add Bluetooth to your TV or A/V receiver so you can pair your favorite Bluetooth headphones and listen without disturbing the peace in your home.

Out of the thousands on Amazon, look for ones that connect with optical (TOSLink or SPDIF), as those will give you the best audio quality. Most TVs have an optical out nowadays, so unless your TV is ancient, you should be fine.

Just pair your headphones to the transmitter, as you would with your smartphone.

Wireless gaming headset

astro.id make your own headset
Image: Josiah Motley / KnowTechie

You might already have a gaming headset, like the Astro A50, which uses a base unit to transmit audio to the headphones wirelessly. If so, you can use that with your TV like you’d add a Bluetooth transmitter.

Make sure it’s one with optical input, as your TV probably won’t work with the USB dongle that most lower-priced gaming headphones use.

You can connect it to your TV via optical, like before, and you should be ready. Just make sure you switch the audio out in the TV settings if it isn’t set to change automatically.

Enjoy listening to your TV in peace

Now you know how to listen to your TV shows without annoying the rest of the household.

While you’re here, use the downtime while waiting for your new headphones to trim your subscription services. The savings on streamers you’re not using might even pay for your new cans.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere. His hobbies include photography, animation, and hoarding Reddit gold.

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