The new law requiring closed captioning decoders on many new television models is an incredible opportunity for communicating with the over 24 million Americans who are suffering from some level of hearing loss. Benefits from this new law go beyond the deaf and hearing impaired community. Those who support the mandatory decoders say that even those with no hearing disability can benefit from the decoders. Children, as well as adults, with hearing impairments will see this technology as a godsend. Closed captioning also helps new immigrants to this country who want to learn English. Watching tv has replaced talking and reading for twenty-four hours of the average person's life.

Though it will never be as good as reading a great book or conversing with friends, closed captioning can vastly improve on your television watching experience. All tv's, manufactured or imported in the US must have decoder circuitry to provide for closed captioning. Televisions with screens smaller than 13 inches are excluded, as are those made prior to July 1993.

According to one preschool audiologist, a whole new world is opened by the advent of closed captioning. Television made no sense to children with profound hearing loss. Even minor hearing troubles can interfere with a child's ability to concentrate on the television. Sounds are continuously distorted for them. For the hearing impaired, closed captioning on television is like what the telecommunication device, or TDD, is for the deaf. The TDD translates speech made into the telephone receiver into printed text that the deaf person can then read in order to participate in the conversation. It enables them to use the phone, which is something they couldn't do before the advent of TDD.

There is another benefit to closed captioning. Even in those with no hearing impairment, reading skills can be greatly enhanced through closed captioning. The ability to learn English and improve reading ability is enhanced when immigrants learning the language and adults who can't read are able to see the actual words being spoken. You may choose to turn the closed captioning feature off your television at any time. Even those with hearing impairments will be able to keep abreast of local, state and national events.

Not everyone has had an equal opportunity to benefit from the video revolution. Hearing impaired individuals don't have the same access to television shows that we may take for granted. Brand new ideas and possibilities have been opened up to one profoundly deaf young woman because of closed captioning. You needn't have this severe of a hearing deficiency to benefit, though. As much as 35 percent of the elderly have some form of hearing loss. One mother of a young teenager strongly considered purchasing a decoder because her son's hearing loss was more than severe.

His mother couldn't decide what to do regrading purchasing the decoder. But her son learns through auditory means. This is not a popular manner of education, according to the mother. There is no signing in this class setting, and no lip reading permitted in the earlier grades. The student can only use what he or she can hear via their hearing aid. According to the mother, using this method helped her son refine his ability to hear to such an extent that he can now communicate via telephone. Her decision to get a decoder was made simply to help him improve his reading. Usually, the written word can be seen beneath the person speaking. If the person is speaking low or whispering, then the text is in italics.

The 1983 Oscars were well celebrated by those with hearing impairments. This was the first time it had been broadcast with closed captioning. In 1980, ABC started to use closed captioning in 16 hours of its programming every week. At present, roughly 400 hours of programming include closed captioning during the week. The three hour blocks we call 'prime time' are now closed captioned. This is true on all of the three major television networks. More than half of the shows that appear on one major network have closed captioning. Closed captioning has also expanded itself into the home video market, with thousands of videos having it, and the phenomenon is starting to spread to the cable networks.

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