I don't know how many times I've asked "what did she say?" while watching television. It's usually during one of those shows like "Downton Abby" or a movie with lots of special effects and a loud soundtrack. But there are other times I want to hear what's playing on TV and can't turn up the volume. Like watching a ballgame in a restaurant or someone's home, or while I'm on a treadmill at the gym.

These apps and a speaker provide solutions to those moments.

First, the speaker. The ZVOX soundbar looks like any of the other soundbars you might purchase for a television. It connects to the TV with either an HDMI cable or an audio connector.

The ZVOX is different than other soundbars in that it has several different settings that somehow separate dialog from the rest of the soundtrack. Watching a movie with lots of explosions, for example, I can raise the volume of what the characters are saying and lower the volume of the explosions and music. The ZVOX comes with a remote control for changing those settings and I've found it very helpful in understanding the actors and actresses in some shows and movies. As a soundbar, I feel it has the same high performance of some more expensive soundbars with name brands such as Vizio.

Smartphone apps are also helping people hear what they otherwise might miss. Tunity and Ava are two apps that will help someone understand what's being said even if they're in a loud room.

Tunity is a clever app that allows you to listen to any show, program or ballgame being broadcast. You simply point the camera at the TV screen and frame what's being broadcast in a small window on the phone. Tunity will search for that show or channel. You do not have to enter a time zone, channel or title, the app searches and finds it using only a frame of the video.

Once it identifies the channel you're watching, it begins streaming the audio from that program. I tried it while watching a ballgame on TV that was being televised live. The app searched for and

found the game in a matter of seconds and the audio began playing on my phone. It was pretty close to being synced up all on its own but you can tweak it a few frames to get it just right.

Now when I'm watching the game at a restaurant or at a friend's house, I can use the Tunity app to get the audio on my phone and listen to it through an earbud.

Another app is incredibly useful for people with serious hearing loss. Ava manages to listen to a conversation and convert the audio into text. I was in a crowded coffee shop one day trying to have a conversation. Neither of us could hear each other so I opened the Ava app and placed the phone on the table. As we talked, Ava converted what it heard to text and scrolled it on the screen like closed captioning you see on television.

What's more, the Ava app can interpret from one language to another. My friend spoke Spanish but it appeared on my phone in English. Again, this was in real-time so neither of us had to wait to respond to what was being said.

If both people have the app on their phone the dialog is displayed along with the name of the person speaking.

You don't need to have some level of hearing loss to appreciate these apps and the soundbar. They can be used in many situations when the world seems just a little too loud.