Accessibility Captioning Connections Hearing Aids Hearing Loss

Podcast Accessibility for Hearing Loss

When we started Hearing Loss LIVE! almost two years ago we started with a podcast right from the beginning. We wanted our podcasts to be accessible to those with hearing loss AND our hearing family and friends. Our podcasts include: video with captions, a transcript and audio. We give everyone a chance to learn more because statistics are, one in five people have hearing loss. We are all dealing with hearing loss. 

It was our assumption that our video podcast would be the most popular version. Wrong. Our streamed podcasts are the more popular version. That surprised us. It can’t all be hearing family and friends, there must be people with hearing loss listening too. Perhaps it’s the Bluetooth connectivity, I surmised, something I lacked because my hearing aids were 8 years old.

Podcast Accessibility Includes Transcripts

When setting up Hearing Loss LIVE! podcasts, I researched other podcasts for accessibility to those of us with hearing loss. Without the connectivity, I needed captions or a transcript. It turned out very few people thought about transcripts or captions. If they had transcripts, they could be difficult to locate. How I wished I could just listen! (Color me jealous and a little resentful at the same time.) I gave up and forgot about listening to other people’s podcasts until I got new hearing aids a few months ago. 

While in a quiet environment, I decided to give it a go with listening to podcasts again because I had the connectivity and the time. There were a lot of misses before finding podcasts that were  accessible for hearing loss. Spotify’s algorithm was probably like, “What the hell” as I cycled through a variety of podcasts rather quickly.

Here were instant turn offs: People talking with music in the background. Several podcasts had people talking one over the other. Other people talked too fast for me to follow. With a lot of patience, I found enough podcasts I can follow to keep me busy. 

I love being able to listen to podcasts!
Examples of podcasts that accessible for those with hearing loss. On Purpose by Jay Shetty. Self Care IRL by Ty Alexander. A Bit of Optimism by Simon Sinek. Re:Thinking with Adam Grant.
A few podcast examples that easy on hearing loss.

It’s so nice to be able to listen to podcasts. With my high frequency hearing loss, I gravitate to male podcasters but I have found some women I can follow as well. Words are still missed, that’s the nature of my hearing loss. If I have some large gaps and burning questions, I hope I can find a transcript. 

I’m not saying it’s work to listen, it is. I have to be able to focus with no major distractions. I can’t be doing a big task while I’m listening. It’s helpful that I can shut out environmental noise through the hearing aid app on my smartphone.

After 6 weeks of listening to podcasts and jotting down notes, I have some guidelines for making accessible podcasts for those with hearing loss. There’s a few areas where Hearing Loss LIVE! can improve too.

Podcast Guidelines
  • Take turns talking. Hearing Loss LIVE! goes to great pains to not talk over each other. If we have guests, we give them the rules:
    • Keep microphones off until it’s your turn to speak.
    • Give a little wave (we record via Zoom), when you have something to say.
    • Wait for the other person to wind down and hand it over to you (keep note paper handy)
      • Do not talk over each other. When voices mix and mingle, many people with hearing loss can’t understand what either person is saying. It becomes noise. 
  • Use a moderate pace, don’t talk so fast. This isn’t just for the HoH, it’s for hearing people too. Give people time to process the information and understand your message.
  • Don’t drop into hushed tones. Find another way to add emphasis, to share the ‘secret’. Along with this, some people drop their voice when ending sentences and that’s hard to hear too. (I’m guilty of this myself from time to time.) Maintain a steady volume. 
  • Identify who’s talking, when conversation shifts. Introduce the next person speaking. Example: “What are your thoughts, Chelle?”  If that doesn’t happen, the next person should open up their part with “This is Chelle.” Do this because with hearing loss, voices can sound the same. Julia and I do fairly well at this but sometimes we forget. 
Lose the Music
  • Do not talk with music in the background. Music is fine, it spices up an intro and the ending. Wait until it’s done to talk.
  • Make sure you record the podcast in good acoustics. Rooms that have harsh surfaces (glass tables, bare walls, tile floors, big windows) have reverberation, tiny echoes that hearing aids and cochlear implants can’t process well. There are some very nice sound panels available on the market. Books, soft services and plants can help tame acoustics.
  • Have a transcript available. Make it equal access for everyone. I may be able to listen to podcasts right now, but that might not always be the case. I have a progressive hearing loss and it could drop again at any time. There are many people out there who can’t afford hearing aids or don’t benefit from hearing devices. Make the podcast fully accessible. Don’t make us search for the transcript. Make sure a link is side by side with your podcast. We use BuzzSprout for our podcasts. The Podcast page on our website directs you there.
    • Tip: Use ASR (automatic speech recognition) like Otter to make a transcript. Review the transcript for mistakes. 
  • If you’re a video podcast, include correct captions. Julia and I add the captions to our longer videos using ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition), which can have many mistakes. We each go through the videos to edit as necessary. The shorter videos and REELS Julia adds the captions by hand with our video editing equipment. Visit our YouTube channel to watch us podcast.
Here’s a Julia thought:

Why not have captions available on streamed audio podcasts? On Spotify, we can read the lyrics to music. We should be able to do the same with podcasts. Even hearing people miss words. We have reached out to Spotify and asked if they would add this functionality. Hint, hint – maybe the more who reach out to their streaming services to add these options make for change.

iPhone Accessibility: iPhone has “Live Captions” in beta mode. You can turn on the captions and watch the ASR generated captions while listening to a podcast. ASR has mistakes, it’s not perfect. It depends on how well the person speaks and the sound quality. Turn on Live Captions in the phone settings – accessibility – scroll down to “Hearing.”

Do you listen to podcasts?

If you listen to podcasts and have hearing loss, what guidelines would you add to make them more accessible? What are podcasts that are easy for you to listen to?

Listen to our podcast on your favorite streaming platform by searching “Hearing Loss LIVE”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *