The benefits of closed captioning for elderly hearing aid users

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The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of closed captioning and hearing aid use on word recognition of televised materials in a sample of 15 older adults with hearing loss, who use hearing aids. Participants viewed television segments in four viewing conditions: 1) without hearing aids or closed captioning (BSLN), 2) with hearing aids (HA), 3) with closed captioning (CC), and 4) with hearing aids and closed captioning (HA+CC). Three types of programming (game show, drama, and news) comprised the stimulus sentences.

Anecdotal reports suggest older hearing impaired people do not use closed captioning, despite its potential benefit in understanding television. The extent to which listeners use closed captioning and hearing aids on a daily basis was examined. It was expected that listeners would have considerable difficulty in the BSLN condition, because the primary cue is speechreading alone. The HA condition was expected to produce significantly higher scores, because listeners would be able to combine information from two modalities: vision (speechreading) and hearing. It was predicted that CC would yield higher scores than these two conditions, because the visual text signal provides unambiguous information, and that the combined HA+CC condition would produce the highest scores. In addition, differences in speech recognition scores were expected for different program types. One prediction was that drama programming would result in consistently lower speech recognition scores due to reduced availability of visual cues compared to game show or news programming.

Results indicated that 77% of participants reported never using the closed captioning when watching television, although most wore hearing aids during television viewing. There was a significant effect of listening/viewing condition for all three program types. For all program types, participants achieved higher word recognition scores in the CC and HA+CC conditions than in HA or BSLN conditions. There was no significant difference in performance between the BSLN and HA conditions. These findings indicate older people with hearing loss do not receive significant benefit from hearing aid use while watching television. However, closed captioning appears to provide significant benefit to older hearing aid users, even though they seldom use this technology.