Academic Outreach

Faculty Focused

Captions – Not Just for Hearing Impairments

Posted on: March 22nd, 2016 by Alissa Evans

The BBC completed a study through their communications department that looked at the variations and characteristics of people that utilize closed captions on television. Research showed that of the 7.5 million people that use closed captions, 6 million of them do not have any kind of hearing impairment. If you can infer that number to reflect the population, this is a significant amount of people that are turning on the closed captioning on their televisions to BOTH read and hear the audio that do not have an intrinsic need to read them.

Let’s think about that for a moment. 6 million of 7.5 million…that is about 80% of people using CC that do not NEED to use it. Simply, they choose to. Why do they choose to use it?

Where is CC displayed?


  • Gyms
  • Sports Bars
  • Airports
  • Waiting Rooms
  • Schools

These are just a few of the public spaces we would see CC. But who else uses them? In what situations are people benefiting from them?

A breastfeed group on twitter claims they like to use them with the volume off during feeding/nap time. This can also be true for couples in the bedroom; one wants to sleep while the other wants to watch television. It can also be used when the audio quality is poor or if the audio is heavily accented and difficult to understand. It is useful when the show has characters that speak incredibly fast or has quick plot twists that you might have a hard time keeping up with.

English Language Learners can benefit immensely from CC as foreign movies and shows have captions in the native language. Both Hollywood stars Charlize Theron and Melanie Laurent are not native English speakers. They attribute learning English by watching television, the same movies and shows over and over again. They have learned to speak and hear English to their native tongue.

Closed Captions can facilitate the acquisition of English at a high rate. ESL learners can benefit from watching a variety of movies, television and online media with the captions turned on to associate the spoken English word with the written English word.

Closed Captioning for online media and television is mandated under compliance with federal regulations for individuals that are deaf or hard of hearing. However, they are not the only people that use and benefit from them. Captions are a component to Universal Design that help benefit all people no matter what their abilities are.

The BBC News story can be found HERE

The magazine naming Theron and Laurent as start that learned English from TV and movies can be found HERE but it is a widely known fact in Hollywood.