Subtitles: On or Off in a Shared Home?

If you live with someone who doesn’t have hearing loss, is there a tension around having the subtitles on when you watch television together?

When my husband went away on a trip last year and I was home alone, at the first opportunity I got, I switched the subtitles to ‘on’ and had them on all the time. ‘On’ was not their normal default setting in our house at that time, you see. Normally, I would only ask to have them on when I was really struggling to follow the plot of a show.

Of subtitles, someone once said to me, “I don’t know how you can read the text and watch what’s going on at the same time.” When she said this, I was tempted to say, “I don’t know how you can’t.”


The fact of the matter is that if I’m watching a film or a drama with subtitles, I usually forget I’m reading — the words just simply appear in my brain. It’s no different to me than it is to watch a subtitled foreign language film.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Scandinavian dramas The Killing and The Bridge, but unlike the majority of viewers who liked them for their moodiness or storylines, I think what I most liked was that I had hour upon hour of TV viewing that didn’t require me to hear. For the evenings that we watched these subtitled programmes, I felt so much more relaxed before going to bed.

Thankfully, my husband realised this and now I’m happy to say that the default setting for subtitles in our house is ‘on’.

10 thoughts on “Subtitles: On or Off in a Shared Home?”

  1. Our TVs have the captions firmly in the on position. In fact, I’m not sure my children know that TVs don’t automatically come that way! : )

  2. They are always on. I do apologize to my husband when he is trying to watch the news since they often cover the graphics at the bottom of the screen though but he is okay with it.

  3. I always have the captions ON, at home. But, if I’m at a friend’s house or other places I’m not as confident in my abilities to assert myself or my needs. It seems that the world doesn’t understand. Why should I be the one apologizing for the captions needing to be ON all the time. I still run into difficulty when announcements are made instead of written.’

  4. I have to keep turning mine back on when my son turns them off. He says how can you read that and watch the show at the same time. It’s because the show is useless to me without the captions. Why do the captions bother some hearing people? You’re getting MORE not less. My daughter is hearing and she prefers the captions. They are also useful for people learning English and for helping children learn to read. There is no down side to captions, but without them, some of us, like myself, would not be able to watch anything.

  5. Having finally got hearing aids (and my lovely husband having put a hearing loop round our living room), I’m trying to learn to listen to the TV without the captions on.

    But my teen daughters are so used to them that they put them back on. Even before my hearing got to the point where my volume setting annoyed them, they were often on because of our daft open plan stairs.

    Any attempt to watch TV at, even, normal volume wakes sleeping children

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