Television nowadays has become a part of most of our daily lives, but there are pros and cons to how much television we watch. For children and infants, there can often be a negative attitude about television, as something that can affect attention spans and stop kids from enjoying the outdoors, but there are some educational benefits to watching television, for adults and children alike. None of us believe it’s a good thing to turn into a couch potato, but children with hearing loss deserve to have the same access to educational, fun and interesting shows, just as other hearing children do. Here’s some of the basics on accessibility to television and children’s hearing loss.
For babies and toddlers with hearing loss, having a TV on in the background can really have an impact on speech development. Hearing aids and cochlear implants cannot bring hearing loss up to ‘normal’ levels and quieter speech sounds (especially high frequency) can be easily ‘drowned out’ by the sound of a television. Also, learning to recognise visual cues and lip-reading can be very important for children with hearing loss, as it can help them to adapt and cope in the noisy situations they will face now and in the future. A visual distraction such as the television can be detrimental to this.
Looping systems can be used to help hearing impaired adults and children to hear the television more easily. Basically, a wire is connected to the television sound output, which transmits any sound directly into a telecoil in the child’s hearing aid or cochlear implant, meaning the sound goes directly into the ear, eliminating any background noise.. There will be a T-switch in the hearing device to allow the user to turn the T-coil on or off as required, to allow them to hear other surrounding sounds.
There are quite a few shows nowadays that incorporate a BSL interpreter in the bottom section of the screen. This is an alternative to subtitles that is brilliant in helping deaf and hearing impaired children to learn and appreciate sign language. It’s also great for those who are unable to read or have visual as well as hearing problems.
BBC have 100% subtitling on all programmes on television, and the vast majority of other channels do also. Subtitles and closed captioning are an enormous market nowadays and there are a number of subtitling companies that can provide subtitling services. Subtitles come up on the screen to display any words that are spoken in a programme, whereas closed captions can also feature descriptions of other important sounds that have occurred. There is also evidence to suggest that running subtitles on a regular basis can be a really good way to help children with their reading, though should never be considered as any kind of a substitute to good old fashioned story time.