The “I Love Captions” Club is Growing!

Gael Hannan
July 21, 2021

What a difference captioning – all kinds of captioning – make when the spoken word just doesn’t make sense.

I can’t remember when I first experienced the joyful liberation of closed captioning, but when I did, it meant the end to struggling to understand onscreen dialogue. The late 90s, maybe? I can’t even remember what we had to do to enable it, except that it involved several steps, accompanied some snarling and cussing. When we were at someone else’s house, the bonds of friendship were tested as we tried to find the captioning on their sets, especially with the new generations of LED and HD televisions.

How did I understand television before captioning! I probably didn’t, at least not all of it. After a program, I would ask my family to fill in a few details. What did that person say to make the other guy want to kill him? Minor plot stuff like that. It was as though I was in a parallel universe; we were watching the same show mine had different dialogue and results. I got by because my hearing was better at the time, and it was before the current, diabolical trend for constant background music which makes speech insanely difficult to decipher.

But when I discovered captioning, I immediately joined the “I Love Captions” club! Here’s why.

You ‘get’ stuff that others miss:  People who hear well often miss things too. With all that background noise and often less than stellar diction, it can be hard to pick out every spoken word, some of which might be important. Captions solve this!

My sister (who has perfect hearing) and I were discussing favourite plot lines from the Walking Dead. She was shocked to hear that one character was in love with another. “How could I not know that,” she demanded. Simple. When he admitted his love, he didn’t say it to her. He muttered it to the ground as he walked away. Who was supposed to hear that? Captions give me a leg up.

Captioning removes the difficulty in understanding ‘foreign’ accents. As a speechreader, I’m challenged by speakers whose first language is not my own. Speech is often formed differently in other languages and therefore they look different on the face. Captions make it clear.

Slow down, you move too fast! When fast speakers talk, you simply can’t speechread fast enough. With captions, you just have to be able to read fast, a skill that caption readers can develop with practice.

You learn to love foreign-language, subtitled films. When you become used to captions, you can enjoy films in any language. You just need to adjust to the disconnect between what you’re reading in your language and what you’re hearing in another. For example, spoken Turkish is unaccustomed and a bit rough on my ears, but I adore Turkish TV shows and I like to hear the emotional tone in the actors’ voices. My ears love French and Spanish TV shows because they sound like music. Often, if my head has taken in too much noise, I will watch foreign films without sound, using only the English subtitles or captions. (Note: subtitles translate only the spoken word, while closed captions provide environmental sounds and emotional tone – for example, “eerie music”.)

Eventually, as you become a pro at reading captions, you absorb the information seamlessly from three sources:

  • What you hear being said.
  • What you speechread being said.
  • What the captions say they said.

Your family may also become addicted to the captioning. The Hearing Husband loves captions, although not for sports. He’s allowed to turn off the CC if I’m not watching the game (which I seldom am), but lately he’s been forgetting to turn it back on when the sporting event is over. Let’s just say there have been words.

My stepson, in his early 40s, just told me that he has the CC turned on all the time now. He was surprised at what he wasn’t catching acoustically. (I’m just waiting for the right time to suggest he have his hearing checked.) And yesterday, a neighbour told me that she and her husband have started using the CC all the time. They don’t have hearing loss, mind you – well, maybe just a bit.

Of course they do! Even “just a bit” of hearing loss can interfere with understanding speech. Captioning fills in the blanks – it makes what’s happening onscreen whole, complete and understandable!

So, welcome to the “I Love Captions” club! There’s no shame in it and a lot of joy.


Did you catch last week’s article “Those Deaf Moments (Before The Technology Goes On”?

  1. If you told a marketing group, “How would you like to improve your TV Ad reach at minimal charge?”, I’m sure they would all jump for it. But how many of us see commercials with no captioning and no idea what the product is? Too many! Too often! And to make matters worse, if a given commercial has no captioning, it may still be showing the last sentence from the previous commercial!

    And that’s just us at home. Now include, for the regular hearing people, all the places where TV is shown and the sound is down (like waiting rooms, bars, ports of travel, etc.).

  2. Thank you for your insight and humor! I always look forward to your articles and find so much truth there that they always have me chuckling out loud (which I’m not prone to) and leaving with insight and a smile!

    1. Gael Hannan Author

      Heather, thank you! It gives me great to joy write the articles. Have you read my book yet? The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss

  3. HI, Gayle:
    Nice job on the essay! I’ve been collecting “funny captions” that happen mostly on my Zoom meetings. You just can’t make this stuff up!

  4. I was over the moon when in the 90s CC was mandated to be included in new TVs without a special set box on top of the TV. The very first thing I watched was Silence of the Lambs because of all the breathy dialogue that required me to keep asking what did she/he say. Wore out my son with my questions. CC solved that problem.

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