Dear TV: I Have a Closed Caption Habit (And Apparently Many Others Do, Too)

Closed Captioning TV Trend

Dear TV,

I have a monkey on my back, and he’s chattering at me in 72-point Tahoma. Meaning, my hearing is fine, and yet I’m a bit of a closed captioning addict.

There was a time I barely knew how to access closed captioning. But after my divorce and the sons started staying over every weekend, I would put off any personal or professional TV watching until they had gone to bed. Since their room basically shared a wall with my den, and one of the rugrats was a light sleeper, I learned to dial down the volume and punch on the CC.

For years since then, though, I often find myself still using closed captioning in any number of scenarios. Sometimes it’s because the FiOS feed of The CW in my area has awfully muddled sound, making dialogue hard to discern. (My back and forth with FiOS/TheCW on Twitter is near-legendary.) Then there are shows such as Hawaii Five-0 that will sometimes pump up the soundtrack to a degree that spoken words cannot be heard. And if I’m catching up on Hulu on the treadmill at the gym, where ’80s music blasts and cardio instructors bark, closed captioning is a must.

But there are many times when I simply have it on… to have it on. And as this piece from Medium points out, many others — Gen Z’s binge-watchers included —do same, to make sure they don’t miss a thing while toggling between screens big, medium and small. Meaning, CC helps with ADHD. As one adolescent psychiatrist told Medium, “I believe auditory processing is more easily impacted upon by distractions, and that they need to read [captions] to stay focused.”

Of course, sometimes it’s not so much hard to hear an actor but to understand them, due to their “realistic” mumbling or, say, a thick brogue. But this 2017 piece by The Mirror — based out of the mumble-heavy UK — notes that increasingly thin tellies are often thin on sound. (I myself tacked on a Sony Soundbar about a year ago to address this issue.) “The sound that comes out of most flat screens is appalling,” an expert told the tabloid.

I will cop to the “ADHD” excuse; The Job often requires me to keep tabs on breaking news during my Thursday “late shift,” when there is simply too much good TV to stay current on at the same time. (I don’t think I have watched The Good Place live… ever?) But there’s probably something to also be said for the music-vs.-dialogue fight that action-driven procedurals can fall victim to (and is perhaps a “Dear TV” column in and of itself).

As you can imagine, when I cue up an advanced screener and instinctively reach for a CC button only to remember there isn’t one, there is internal screaming.

Yours truly in TV,

Have you found yourself utilizing closed captioning more and more, though your hearing is technically A-OK?

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