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.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

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

  1. 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,

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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?

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  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.

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  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.

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  8. 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.

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  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

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  10. I appreciate the value of captioning, but also its limitations. My single-sided hearing loss is combined with low eyesight – but also an understanding family!

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