Closed captioning is a relatively new addition to media, but one that has already become an integral part of how we communicate with one another. Closed Captions (CC) were first added to television programs in 1980 in order to intentionally cater to those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Since then, their use has expanded beyond television, into mediums such as video games, music videos, YouTube shorts, and, yes, your favorite Netflix show.

Thanks to closed captions, more people than ever are able to engage with content. And, as someone who wants to utilize videos to engage with as wide of an audience as possible, it’s important to understand why CCs are so important. Read on to learn more.

Subtitles vs. Closed Captioning

Before we go any further, we want to note an important distinction: closed captions and subtitles are not the same. Closed captions are of particular use to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. They are written descriptions of an entire scene, including background noises, speaker differentiation, and other contextual information. Subtitles, on the other hand, are simply a translation of spoken audio into visual text.

Equal Opportunity

Closed captioning is essential for several reasons, but one of the most important is that they provide accessibility for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. According to the National Deaf Center, approximately 15% of Americans report having some form of hearing loss. That’s 37.5 million people across the United States.

While some with hearing loss can communicate without difficulty, others will find it much more challenging to follow along with a fast-paced dialogue scene or pick up on subtle sound cues. This is where closed captions come in. These simple lines of text allow everyone to enjoy the medium.

As a creative studio, we here at JumpStart think closed captions are essential. When we incorporate captions into our videos, we are easily and quickly expanding the audience who can watch our video!

Better Comprehension

Another great reason to use closed captioning is that it can improve overall comprehension when watching a video. By providing a second form of communication (text), closed captions allow the viewer to follow along with the video. Studies have actually shown that closed captions can help viewers to better focus on the content and recall it at a later time!

Further, closed captions ensure that important parts of a scene do not “fall through the cracks”. Have you ever been watching a show but missed a part of the conversation? Closed captions, by their nature, include each and every word of dialogue. If you’re following along by captions, you’ll better understand the action on-screen.

Expand Your Audience

Do you remember the film Parasite? The 2019 film follows two families from different social classes. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

It was also unique for another reason: it was the first non-English language film to win Best Picture.

Another great reason to use closed captioning is that it can immediately open a new audience by simply changing the language. As an organization that is trying to have as wide of an audience as possible, using captions to translate into a new language is a no-brainer.

Also, these captions can serve a secondary purpose – helping people learn a new language. Translated words can be displayed alongside original audio, helping increase comprehension for new language learners.

Help More People

Closed captions are one of the most important aspects of your video. They allow inclusivity of those who are hard-of-hearing or deaf. Closed captions increase comprehension of the topic. They expand the content to non-native speakers of the audio language. It’s no wonder why they are so prevalent.

We here at JumpStart highly encourage you to research and include closed captions in your videos – you never know who it will help!