Washington, Dec 3 : Subtitles do not guarantee hearing-impaired viewers a total comprehension of television messages, according to a new study.
The study also found that subtitles are shown too quickly and are too literal, which does not allow them time to view the images or reach an overall understanding.
To find whether deaf viewers - the main users of this service - actually can understand the programmes, find it easy to read subtitles and understand the messages transmitted through the images, professors Cristina Cambra, Nºria Silvestre and Aurora Leal, members of the UAB Research Centre on Hearing Impairment and Language Acquisition (GISTAL), conducted a study.
Participants included students with hearing impairment of different ages and the research focused on the role played by visual, audio, and oral and written information on the screen. Twenty adolescents aged 12 to 19 participated in this study.
All of them suffer from either severe or profound hearing impairment, went to municipal schools of the Barcelona province with children who had no hearing impairments, and communicated with others using spoken language with the help of auditory prostheses and by learning how to lip-read.
Participants were asked to explain what was happening in a fragment of the Catalan TV series "El cor de la ciutat". The first viewing was done with no sound, the second with sound and the third with sound and subtitles.
At the end of the first viewing, 30 percent of participants had a global understanding of what had happened by only watching the images.
The percentage increased to 40 percent after turning on the sound and after adding the subtitles.
According to researchers these figures indicate that for teenagers with hearing impairments, subtitles as they are currently presented are not a good enough resource in helping them understand what a television programme is about.
More specifically, researchers verified that the speed at which they appeared and a literal transcription of the dialogues did not give participants time to view the images and reach an overall understanding.