Children’s Hearing Aids and Subtitling Services
It’s not until little ears start getting bigger that we may start to notice where children with hearing loss are struggling to access services. Babies and toddlers are unable to communicate what they can’t hear, but juniors, adolescents and teens will tell us what they haven’t heard. At some point, the issue of television sound quality is bound to come to the fore, and there are some reasons that even more than loop systems and radio aids, television subtitling services are a great option for children with hearing loss.
Learning to Read with Subtitling
Subtitles can vastly help to improve literacy skills and help children learn to read. Don’t get me wrong; a toddler is not going to sit down to watch the Night Garden with captioning on, and then suddenly be reading War and Peace the next morning. Obviously, there are no substitutes to a real teacher or parent teaching through phonics, reading books, games and fun worksheets, but having constant access to words alongside images and sound undoubtedly helps to reinforce reading skills.
Learning to read is a difficult task for any child. Throw hearing loss into the mix and it’s a real challenge for children. Lots of online subtitling companies are campaigning for more high quality closed captioning for deaf and hard of hearing viewers. The industry desperately needs it – as much as subtitling can help literacy skills, some of the automated captioning out there could probably end up doing more harm than good!
Reading, Subtitles and Learning through Recognition
Children who use subtitling services may not immediately gain a better reading level in terms of being able to construct words from scratch. Let’s clarify. Some teaching practices suggest testing children not only to read phonetic words such as ‘cap’, ‘sat’ and ‘ham’, but rather, to also read words that are made-up. The theory is this eliminates any element of visual recognition, reinforcing phonics teaching, for example, ‘zat’ or ‘gab’. Just think those tricky Dr Seuss words and phrases – perfect for little readers!
In terms of recognition, closed captions and subtitles will first and foremost reinforce what has already been learned by a child. Seeing words over and over again can help to improve visual memory recall. Accessing sound alongside vision in turn, boosts auditory memory which is especially great for hearing impaired children!
Subtitling Services and the Potential for Speech Therapy
There is a lot of information available online around the potential benefits of subtitling for literacy skills, but not a lot in relation to speech. For a child with hearing loss learning to read, the use of subtitling can only make the speech development process easier. Many children with hearing loss will miss out soft sounds, (f, s, sh, t) in their speech. During speech therapy, before a therapist works on a child’s sound production, they need to first become aware of its existence, and listen to it.
Whilst hearing aids and cochlear implants vastly improve children’s hearing, they do not restore normal hearing levels. Consequently, there will be times when deaf children don’t gain full access to all speech sounds, and the omission of certain sounds can also become habit. It’s quite common for children with hearing loss to struggle more with reading skills. It’s difficult to sound out how to spell a word when you keep forgetting a particular sound is supposed to be there.
As a child learns to read, subtitling services can work in a similar fashion to cued speech. Reading and hearing at the same time means when a sound isn’t heard, there is a visual clue that it is there, which serves as a reminder to include it next time. Subtitling services can help to improve speech, because reading can improve speech.
Improving Focus and Attention
There have been studies which show that even for children who watch subtitles, their eye is drawn to the reappearing text over and above the visual information being displayed through the rest of the video. Each time a new subtitle appears onscreen, the eye is drawn to it. This focused attention teaches a child to look at words while they listen, similar to when we ask our kids to follow our fingers while we read. It’s a focus which occurs naturally and actually increases concentration and absorption of the information which is being put across.
Closed captioning services help to improve focus. Receiving messages via multiple channels: sound, text and image, means that information can be better retained and remembered, which is great not only for learning to read and write, but in fact, for learning about anything.
Using Subtitles to Learn a Second Language
It’s been proven that Finnish children have one of the highest levels of literacy in the world. Popular belief puts this fact down to large proportion of imported foreign programmes on Finnish television, in contrast to programmes actually created in Finland.
Watching foreign video means using subtitling services, and in turn, reading subtitles means paying attention to text. For Finnish children, reading closed captions alongside English or French speaking shows may improve translation skills and also provide a greater recognition of Finnish words.
Subtitle translations can help to children and adults learn to speak foreign languages. However, the learning of that language will obviously not extend to writing skills, as text displayed will be in the native language. For languages with similar phonics and characters, verbal skills may be transferred, but learning languages this way relies on visual and auditory memory and word recognition.
Why Use Subtitling and Closed Captioning Services
Television services are always a struggle for parents of deaf and hearing impaired children. Especially for new, incredibly slimline TV sets, sound quality is often not up to scratch without external speakers. In addition, during recent times, there have been numerous complaints from the deaf community around filming conditions for popular TV shows, where there are excessive amounts of background noise, overspeaking, or loud music over the top of speech.
The first solutions are usually optimising the sound as much as possible, turning down the bass, using default sound settings. We might even buy more cushions and rugs for the living room, and prioritise our sofa seating arrangements based on who needs best access to sound. But the truth is, no matter what accommodations we make, TV closed captioning and subtitling services are a great option.
Many subtitling and video transcription services online are working hard to promote subtitles and closed captioning on a wider scale. We love subtitles, not just for deaf children, but for all kids and they should be one of the first options in bringing about television accessibility; the sooner the better!