For a deaf person like me, I don’t need subtitles to hear the groans and roars of zombies, but I do need them when a character is on their deathbed, mumbling their dying words in a faint American accent.

I am – of course – talking about The Walking Dead. On Monday this week, the series kickstarted again and my God, it was a brilliant mid-series premiere. Anyway, rather than talk about the episode, today I want to talk about how important subtitles can be to a deaf/hard of hearing audience.

First of all, my I can describe myself as having a mild/moderate hearing loss, or being ‘hard of hearing’ (I use both interchangeably). This means that I’m fine with most interactions and can speak at a normal level – provided I have my hearing aids in. In terms of TV shows and films, I struggle to hear actors with a very low, grumbly accent, or a foreign accent.

So rather than missing out on parts of a programme, subtitles help. However, cinemas and YouTube channels are two things which don’t appear to be using subtitles (or ‘closed captioning’, in YouTube’s terms). In terms of YouTubers, they think it’s a lot of hard work manually adding subtitles, and cinemas don’t think there’s much of a demand for subtitled film screenings.

Similarly, I know a few hearing people who are annoyed by how distracting subtitles can be. I do appreciate that, but without subtitles, we could only watch the pictures. For example, when I was watching The Walking Dead on Channel 5, there were no subtitles available. Therefore, I would know a character has died, but because I couldn’t hear the dialogue, the death has less of an impact.

But then, when I was finally able to watch the show on FOX with subtitles, and it was so much better. With the text, deaf viewers like me can understand the interactions and it adds more to our connections with a TV show character. A few series later and I finally feel like I have a sense of each character’s personality, which wouldn’t be possible without subtitles. This is how important subtitles are to me. So, whether you’re deaf, hard of hearing, or hearing, please do understand if somebody wants to switch subtitles on.

Do you use subtitles when watching TV shows or movies? Do you watch foreign dramas with translated subtitles? Comment below!

Liam