Going to the movies can be challenging for people with hearing loss. The soundtrack is often deafeningly loud but the dialogue is too soft, making it hard to follow the plot. You can’t really ask the actors to repeat themselves and your companions get annoyed when you ask “What did he say?” a hundred times during the film. Not surprisingly, my family rarely went to the movies, waiting for the new releases to become available for home use where we could watch them with captions.
But recently my son has been asking to go to the movie theater. He is getting older and wants to enjoy his favorite action flicks (like the latest Star Wars movie) on the big screen. Who can blame him?
I didn’t want to miss out on the experience — I really do enjoy a big screen Star Wars flick myself — so I experimented and found a way to enjoy going to the movies again. It has become a regular Sunday afternoon activity for our family.
There are two important elements: Noise canceling headphones to block out the overly loud soundtrack and caption readers to enhance the dialogue.
Noise Canceling Headphones
I love my noise canceling headphones and use them often. I wear them when I travel on airplanes, at concerts, and I even sported them on some of the attractions at Disney World. They not only help protect my ears from sounds that are unsafe, but also help me cope with situations that I find disturbingly loud, even if the decibel level is within normal limits.
At the movies they work great! They not only ratchet down the volume, but when I use the noise canceling feature, the background noise recedes and the dialogue is much easier to understand. This works well at loud Broadway shows too, where the music can sometimes overpower the voices.
In the case of Star Wars, a small flick of the noise canceling switch and I was able to hear the rebels’ calls for help over the diminished roar of the Empire’s fighter planes. Excellent.
Many movie theaters now offer captions readers, and most of the time they work quite well! Two years ago, when I first tried using one, the cinema staff was not familiar with the device and it took some time to get one. But more recently, the folks at guest services have become much more efficient. This must mean the devices are being used more frequently!
There are two basic types of caption readers that I have seen. The most common (at least in my experience) is Dolby CaptiView®, which according to the website “consists of a small OLED display on a bendable support arm that fits into a theatre seat cup holder.”
The screen is small, but the captions are clear and easy to read. Built-in privacy visors prevent the captions from bothering those seated around you. The adjustable arm lets you position the viewer anywhere you like. I try to center it at the bottom of the screen like my closed captions at home. The captions often work for the previews too, but not for the ads, which is fine by me.
The second type is Sony® Access glasses. I have only had the chance to try these once, and the captions were blurry so I could not read them. I should have exchanged them for a different pair, but they felt so heavy on my face, I wasn’t sure I wanted to wear them anyway. Other people I know use them frequently with much success, so I may need to give them another try.
Find theaters with caption readers at CaptionFish. Enter your location and you can then search by theater or movie times. Or simply ask at your local theater. Most larger chains now offer them.
Readers, will I see you at the movies?