Live On Broadway: Enjoying The Movies And The Theater With Hearing Loss

Jan 08, 2019

If you have hearing loss, it’s understandable that you might be a bit apprehensive about going to the movies or to the theater. While everyone else can sit back, relax, and enjoy the feature film, people with hearing loss worry that they’ll miss a major plot twist because the person behind them is chatting away or munching on popcorn.
Due to these anticipated issues, many people with hearing loss wait for a film to come out on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Although this can be a useful way to avoid missing out on a film, avoiding the movie theater can cause people with hearing loss to miss out on quality time with their friends or families.
Luckily, recent technological advancements have made movie theater and live theater anxiety fall by the wayside for many people with hearing loss. If you are concerned about being able to fully enjoy your next trip to the movies: here are some suggestions to maximize your experience:

  • Use a captioning device. These days, most movie theaters can provide people with hearing loss with free captioning devices so that they can read along with the movies. Often, these captioning devices attach to the cup holder on your seat and sit right below the big screen so they don’t affect your visual field. Other theaters may provide captioning glasses, which project the movie’s script onto the digital lens of the devices. Check in with your local movie theater before you buy your tickets to see if they can support your hearing needs. You can also search for theaters with caption readers at com.
  • Look for open caption screenings. Open captioning combines all of the benefits of a closed caption device without the need to set up a device and without the need to constantly switch your eye focus from the screen to the captions. Essentially, open captioned films are movie screenings with the closed captioning already on the screen – just as if you were sitting at home watching Netflix with the subtitles on. While these film screenings are still fairly rare, they are becoming more available every year. If your local theater does support open caption screenings, ask the theater staff for a schedule as showtimes and tickets are usually limited.

When it comes to a live performance, however, people with hearing loss have a number of different options available to them. Here are some ways to best enjoy a live show, even if you have hearing loss:

  • Ask for an infrared headset or FM system. If you use a t-coil enabled hearing aid or cochlear implant, you can take full advantage of the hearing loops that are becoming more readily accessible at live theater productions. These devices provide excellent sound quality to people with hearing loss by connecting their hearing aids or cochlear implants directly to the theater speaker system. If you don’t have a t-coil enabled hearing aid, many theaters also have hearing loop receiver earphones that you can pop right into your ear for maximum audio quality.
  • Look for open captioning. Just like at the movie theater, open caption shows provide real-time captioning throughout a performance. Usually, these captions are displayed on a board at one side of the stage and they offer a great way for people with hearing loss to fully engage with a theater production. Unfortunately, open captioned shows tend to be quite rare and only happen once or twice within a major show’s production run, so check out the schedule early to avoid disappointment.
  • Use an app. Smartphone technology is already changing our daily lives, so it’s no surprise that it’s also a great way for people with hearing loss to enjoy a live show. One app, called GalaPro, provides captioning for any Broadway performance after its first four weeks of production. The captions aren’t real-time, though, rather, they use lighting cues to prompt caption displays. Reportedly, the app syncs properly about 95% of the time and is only set to improve in the future.

The plethora of choices available to people with hearing loss makes avoiding the theater or the movies a thing of the past. Since each person with hearing loss is unique, it’s important to find the theater and movie-going tactic that works best for you.