Subtitles for people with hearing loss differ greatly from those made for other groups of people.

Deaf people and people with hearing loss have different needs when it comes to audiovisual content and these needs must be kept in mind when producing or translating subtitles for them. But what are some of the main difficulties that come with this particular form of subtitling?

Subtitles for people with hearing loss

Why must subtitles for people with hearing loss be created by specialists?

Deaf people and people with hearing loss have a slower reading speed than others. As such, subtitles for people with hearing loss must be formulated so that they can be read while an image or concept is still on the screen.

Subtitles for the deaf are shorter than standard subtitles but must still be accurate in terms of concepts and terminology. Furthermore, to communicate the atmosphere of audiovisual content as fully and authentically as possible, subtitles for people with hearing loss need to describe sounds and music accompanying the dialogue and images on the screen. It is also necessary to identify speakers for each sentence so that dialogue can be properly followed by deaf people.

Translated subtitles for people with hearing loss must have the same fluidity, descriptiveness and accuracy as subtitles in the source language. As such, it is very important to ask a specialist to translate subtitles for deaf people.

What is respeaking?

Not all TV programmes broadcast on primary television networks are pre-recorded. Many of them, including prime-time shows, are broadcast live. It is still possible to create subtitles for people with hearing loss for live programmes but, in this case, it is called ‘respeaking’. Respeakers perform a role very similar to that of simultaneous translators, who are tasked with giving a foreign audience access to a speaker’s words.

Of course, in this instance, the difficulties increase significantly. Quality respeaking requires highly specialised skills in the field of sensory disability and simultaneous interpreting.

Audiovisual translation for deaf people in Italy

Unfortunately, the translation of audiovisual content for deaf people on public and national television networks is extremely uncommon in Italy, and the situation is not much better on pay-for stations.

It is therefore very important to provide deaf people with high-quality audiovisual subtitles when commissioned. Including the deaf community in culture and current history relies heavily on the work of specialised audiovisual subtitlers. It is a very important civic duty.