Hearing Loss Or Not — Everyone Loves Captions!

People with hearing loss LOVE captions! They help us combat hearing loss exhaustion by reducing listening effort, help us fill in words that we miss during a speech or when watching a movie, and give us confidence that we can participate more fully in a number of different listening situations. It turns out we are not alone.

A recent visit to Verizon Media’s Accessibility lab taught me that everyone loves captions, even people without hearing loss! I had always suspected as much as I watched my husband with typical hearing using the captions at Broadway shows and other events over the years, but now there is proof.

80% of People Who Use Captions Are Not Hard of Hearing

Recent research by Verizon Media and Publicis Media showed that video viewing is changing, with more consumers watching videos on-the-go and in shared spaces. This is causing more people to embrace captioning than ever before. In fact, 80% of people who use captions do not have hearing loss. Half of those surveyed said they like captions because they often watch videos with the sound off.

Verizon Media’s accessibility team shared the data with a group of us from HLAA’s NYC chapter a few weeks ago. Interestingly, it came from a study that was conducted by their advertising technology department. This tells me that captions are going mainstream, which is good news for people with hearing loss.

More support for widespread captioning comes from a 2018 TEDx talk by Svetlana Kouznetsova where she reports that captioning videos increase viewership by 40% and that 90% of captioned videos are watched to completion. Captioned videos reach a larger audience because they make watching possible in a wider variety of settings. Captions also make it easier to understand complicated or confusing content and improve intelligibility if the speaker has a strong accent.

Accessibility Is Becoming A Priority

More companies are making accessibility a priority. Verizon Media (owner of Yahoo!, AOL, and Huffington Post) now boasts 100% captioning of their original content as well as eight hours of live financial news each weekday on Yahoo! Finance. This year, Google launched numerous accessibility products including Live Transcribe, a speech to text app for people with hearing loss. Microsoft recently added auto-captioning to Skype. With the advent of OTC hearing aids, the list of companies focused on providing hearing loss solutions will only grow.

Products developed for a mainstream audience are also finding an eager market in the hearing loss community. Tunity, a smartphone app that lets you listen to a current TV broadcast on your smart phone when the TV is muted, was designed for use by hearing people in loud bars, but it also works well for people with hearing loss. Another such product is Otter, a speech to text app that was created for transcribing business meetings, but can be used by people with hearing loss for real-time captioning. 600 minutes of free transcription are allowed per month.

Involving the hearing loss community in these efforts is key to creating solutions that work well for people with hearing loss, as well as a mainstream audience. Only someone with hearing loss can attest that poorly synced captions are often worse than no captions at all, as the disconnect between what we hear, the lip movements and what we are reading creates more confusion than assistance.

I am glad to see companies reaching out to the hearing loss community for feedback on their accessibility efforts. Meetings like the one at Verizon Media and the trusted tester groups at Google that seek feedback from consumers on new products in the design stage are great steps towards improving accessibility for everyone. When implemented well, disability can be a design opportunity.

Readers, do you love captions?

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25 thoughts on “Hearing Loss Or Not — Everyone Loves Captions!”

  1. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    I do. I find though that podcasts and Vimeo et al. do NOT have captions. I’m speaking up when I can about it but it’s a long haul. I find that accommodation for hearing loss truly falls behind even if the ADA requires it. Captioning costs money I suppose,

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Yes, but hopefully there will be progress, especially if captions are liked by mainstream users as well. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  2. Captions are not just about understanding what is being said. Captions can also be great tool in learning how to be a better conversationalist for anyone, especially for those with hearing loss.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Good point. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Yes! Absolutely need captions when watching television shows and movies to assist with lip reading. They are so incredibly helpful for scenes in which the speaker is not on camera (e.g., the camera is capturing another actor’s reaction). And, to underscore your point, I notice that my typical hearing family uses captions even when I am not watching with them — I say, “Oh, you know you can turn the captions off,” and they are content to keep them on. I’ve wondered if it’s just habit from watching with me, or if they really do need captions to fill in more often than one might think.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Come to think of it, my family leaves them on when I’m not there too. I always thought it was laziness but maybe not! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. I do not like captions at all if I am going to read then I will read a book an turn the TV off. My brain is one that I can either watch the TV or movie or I can read.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Interesting. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

  5. Love captions also – but I think there are still phone issues with captioning. I have a captioned phone, and just tried to listen/read messages. Pretty horrible. Work still needs to be done there.
    One issue with captioning I don’t understand. When you are watching a show on TV and captioning is a little behind – when they go to a commercial break, you don’t see the end of the discussion. Where is that issue occurring? Who do we address that question to?

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Good question. Complaints about captions can be filed with the FCC. Here is the link. https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/articles/202701124-Closed-Captioning-on-Television Thank you for your comment.

  6. I like captions on videos because you can also double play back time and possibly adjust the screen so you do not have to watch the person speaking. I don’t watch TV or movies. I seldom receive a call on the caption phone, yet in come cases it’s been very useful.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for sharing what works for you.

  7. Great post and video – so glad this is going mainstream. I wonder why the National News captioning is so far behind the actual speaker and much content gets cut off as segments transition.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Live captioning is often the toughest, but I do wish it would be more accurate and be better synched. You can file specific complaints with the FCC here: https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/articles/202701124-Closed-Captioning-on-Television Thank you for your comment.

  8. Roger Talbott – I grew up on a farm. I retired to the biggest city in North America. I never met someone of a different race or faith until I was almost 18. Today I live in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the world. I was born in the middle of the 20th Century. I am getting to see the beginning of the 21st. Some things never change, however.I have always been sustained by the belief that there is something beyond what I can see that is good and lasts forever. Life needs to have meaning and purpose. Relationships need to be based on love and respect. The best work feels like play. Our bodies and minds need to be challenged. To meet those challenges we need to eat good food and read good thoughts. And I know from experience that we can turn our backs on those truths and really screw up our lives.
    Roger Talbott says:

    Another great post. And another important point. Just as the general public loves kitchen tools designed for arthritic hands, so everybody will love a world of communications that accommodates the deaf and hard of hearing. Thanks again for your valuable blogs.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      I agree. Smart design works for everyone! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  9. I’m very grateful for captions, and things without captions can be very frustrating. And I’m so happy that most YouTube vids now are captioned, because I go there a lot for instructions on unfamiliar tasks. But my hubby has said in the past that he doesn’t like them. He is dyslexic and I always have to read the written intro’s and closing explanations of movie stories to him. He said the captions get in the way of the picture, but thankfully we can usually now control the size and look of the captions on our tv’s and computers. He knows I need them and I think he is so used to them now that he doesn’t even see them. hahaha

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Me too! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      So glad you have a strong network of help. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Many people like Otter as well. Personally, I think the accuracy of LiveTranscribe is better, but Otter makes transcripts which is a nice feature. Thanks for your question.

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