I’m always checking out news about hearing loss topics and cochlear implants.
Today I found an interesting article from AARP about going to the movies when you have hearing loss.
I’ve been to 3 or 4 movies in the last 3 years. I like movies, but I rely heavily on closed captioning to help me follow along. At home that’s not a problem. Broadcast TV, cable channels, even Netflix all have captioning available.
The community I live in has an ample number of movie theaters operated by 2 companies. Only one of them, the smaller of the 2, offers captioning devices but they are only available for some of the movies being shown.
While there has been some innovation in ways to provide captioning in movie theaters, there is no universal best practice. Some offer a device that sits in the cup holder of your seat and has an attached screen that provides the captioning during the movie. There are also captioning glasses that connect wirelessly to the movie and project holographic captions in front of the wearer’s eyes.
As the author of the AARP article pointed out, it’s possible to go to a theater only to find out that their captioning solution is out of order for some reason. Others that may be offered the captioning glasses may find that they are awkward with the person’s own glasses.
The state of Hawaii passed a law that went into effect in December (2015) that mandates open captioning in movie theaters. Open captioning differs from the other methods I’ve described in that captions are openly displayed on the movie screen for all to see. The new law requires theaters to offer at least 2 showings a week of each movie with open captioning.
As I mentioned in my introduction post, I am very hopeful that I’ll soon have cochlear implant surgery (my pre-surgical evaluation is in early February). One of the discussion boards I’m active on has had several members who have had cochlear implants comment that they have had to actively work to wean themselves from closed captioning. For so many of us, it is a natural part of our TV and movie viewing lives. Even after CI surgery, when word recognition has greatly improved, weaning yourself from using closed captioning could be part of the rehabilitation process.
I read a study from the UK recently that said in a survey there 7.5 million individuals said they used closed captioning, but only 1.5 million of those identified themselves as being hard of hearing. What does that tell us? I guess many people, beyond the hearing impaired, utilize captioning for reasons different from people with hearing loss. People on TV and movies talk fast and sometimes it’s hard to keep up, no matter what your hearing abilities are.
I’m grateful for the efforts to date to provide captioning services across all forms of media and hope that one day soon the rest of the country will join Hawaii in mandating open captioning in all theaters and by doing so continue to remove barrier after barrier.