With or Without Sound?

When you watch television with captions, do you have the sound on or off?

I’ve always seen subtitles as an aid to lipreading and lipreading as an aid to working out what I’m hearing and for that reason, I have both sound and captions on whilst watching television.

However, when I visited a friend who also has severe hearing loss, I noticed she opts for the captions only. I asked her why this was and she explained that because of her Meniere’s, audio from the television sounded distorted and made it impossible for her to watch.


This ‘no sound’ on the television made for an interesting experience whilst my husband and I were staying with her. We were watching Dragon’s Den (a show for budding entrepreneurs seeking financial backing from investors) with the sound off and the captions on and he was checking messages on his phone. My friend and I laughed at something that was said on the show, but because he wasn’t looking at the screen, following the captioning, he’d missed what it was that had made us laugh.

It made me think of all the times I’d missed what people were laughing at because I’d not heard what was said and how this was the first time I’d noticed a situation where a hearing person was the one missing out because they’d not ‘read’ what was said.

When you have hearing, listening is such a passive activity, isn’t it? Most people can check their phone messages and follow dialogue on a television programme simultaneously. It’s only when you have difficulty hearing that listening becomes a more ‘active’ activity: something you are consciously trying to do.

So, I’m interested to know — do you use captions as an aid to following speech or do you use it to replace the spoken word altogether?

5 thoughts on “With or Without Sound?”

  1. Interesting question. I try to listen without looking at the captions, to practice hearing. But I can’t get everything and so I leave the captions on. The lag on live TV, like the news, sometimes allows me to focus on listening rather than reading, but I generally lapse into caption reading. I do turn the sound down to normal conversational level, which makes speech comprehension a little easier, probably because background noise is also quieter.
    Has anyone ever tried looping the TV? That’s fairly easy to do, and not that expensive.

  2. I used to keep the sound off and read the captions but I was worried that I might be training my brain to ignore sounds, so now I keep the sound on and use the captions to fill in if I miss something, which is fairly often.

  3. I used to rely on closed captions entirely until I got my Phonak Audeo V’s. If I use my TV Link, I understand significantly more, but still read when I need to. I also keep the sound at a normal level. My next step is use TV Link and turn off the closed captions to see how well I do, starting with programs that are easier to understand (like the news). I am hoping that with time with my understanding will improve.

  4. I leave the sound on, i have found my housemates tend to leave the captions on even when i am not home.. Think they have gotten to used to it. The news subtitles i found are very slow which is understandable as its live.. but the spelling mistakes are quiet funny

  5. I use CC with the audio on. Always had trouble with dialog. Bought a sound bar and it helps a great deal with better sound and clearer dialog than TV speakers where I don’t use CC on that particular TV. Want to buy the Phonak TV Link / Compilot device for best viewing. I wear Phonak Bolero Q90 M13 hearing aids.

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