The Problem with Streaming Video


Streaming video, whether from Netflix or YouTube, is a great medium for young people with good hearing. But there comes a time in life, alas, when hearing starts to diminish and your either watch things with the volume turned up too far for decency, or you rely on captioning, or subtitles.

My wife and I are in our mid-60’s and our hearing has started to go. Our solution to this, when watching TV or DVDs, is to turn on captioning. It goes by various names: captioning, closed captioning, subtitles in English, subtitles for the hearing impaired. Go to Setup on a DVD and you’ll be able to turn it on.

We first started using subtitles when listening to British shows that often had hard-to-understand regional dialects. Then we used them for the archaeology show Time Team so we could catch the technical terms that were unfamiliar to our ears. It was better than “What was that he said?” “I dunno, couldn’t make it out.”

By the time we discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer the show was no longer on the air so we bought the DVD collection. There were so many quick lines and references to pop culture that we needed the subtitles to keep up.

Now it’s become our preferred way to watch any kind of video. We can keep the volume on the TV low yet still not miss any of the dialog.

With streamed video, which we watch via a Western Digital TV Live media player attached to our TV, there are no subtitles. There are none when we listen on our iThings either. I’ve often wondered why subtitles are not offered as a viewer option.

Not knowing the industry, I suspect it might have something to do with licensing rights and that subtitles and captions are not necessarily licensed along with the video itself. I could be wrong, of course. It may simply be that adding a subtitle track to the video isn’t standardized.

I hope something might be done about this eventually. There is, of course, a large demographic consisting of aging seniors and soon-to-be-seniors. Streamed video services would be more attractive to them as subscribers if they included captioning.

Captioning has some downsides, of course. And some chuckles. The captions occasionally obscure something you’re trying to see. Or, more comically, they try to capture the mood of the video by announcing “ominous music” when a murder is about to be committed. Still, they’ve become an important part of our viewing pleasure.

That’s it for now.

(“waves goodbye”)

About Gene Wilburn

Gene Wilburn is a writer ~ photographer ~ humanist
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4 Responses to The Problem with Streaming Video

  1. Jamie Pillers says:

    I’ve been there (hearing-wise). Get yourselves one of the “TV Ears” contraptions. They work MARVELOUSLLY well!! It consists of a small transmitter (infrared-based I believe) and two sets of headphones. The headphones are very light weight and each have their own volume and tone adjustments. You can actually have the TV muted completely and still be able to listen at your own comfort level. I find the clarity and tonality of the headphones FAR better than listening from across the room. HIGHLY recommend them. Enjoy.

  2. Gene Wilburn says:

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll explore it, though I prefer subtitles to wearing head gear.

  3. Linda Miland says:

    Hear, hear!

    I bought a Mac Mini two years ago. I adore the little thing, but at maximum volume I can *just* barely hear any podcasts, videos or music that I wish to play.

    When I complained to a so-called Mac Genius at the Apple Store about this, he just looked at me coolly and suggested I purchase external speakers. (He didn’t add “Duh” out loud, but I heard it in my head from his expression.)

    I couldn’t help but compare that attitude to Apple’s view on visual acuity. If I’d said “The viewscreen is so fuzzy I can barely read my email” (adding, “but the monitor works fine on other units,” of course), I’m sure the ICU would immediately have been in the shop for testing while I went home with a brand-new replacement Mini.

    Subtitles would be great (well, except for music), and earphones might work (except I couldn’t tolerate them for the length of time I work at or play with my computer)—but I gave in and plugged my Mini into an amplifier and speakers.

    But I sure didn’t buy them from Apple! >:-

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