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Why Can’t I Understand TV Without Subtitles?

As an avid television watcher, I was frustrated when I couldn’t understand what the actors were saying without subtitles. I found myself rewinding and pausing to try and make out the dialogue, but it was still hard to understand.

I wanted to know why this was happening and if there were any solutions to my problem. That’s when I started doing some research and testing to find answers. That’s why I’m here today to share with you how I solved my issue and the other solutions I discovered along the way.

Sound mixing is one of the main reasons many people struggle to watch television without subtitles. In many cases, dialogue is drowned out by background sounds and music. By watching TV with subtitles, viewers can prevent missing anything important, which increases their engagement and enjoyment.

Reasons People Struggle to Understand TV Without SubtitlesAdvantages of Watching TV with Subtitles
Sound mixing drowns out dialogueIncreases accessibility for deaf or hard-of-hearing
Hearing difficultiesHelps non-English speakers and language learners
Language barriersEnhances viewer engagement and information retention
Background noise interferenceAllows for watching videos without sound
Misheard dialogueImproves overall enjoyment of TV content

Why Do People Struggle To Understand TV Without Subtitles?

If you’ve found yourself struggling to understand the TV without subtitles, you’ll be relieved that you’re not alone! Studies have shown that more people have been watching TV with subtitles in recent years. However, you might wonder why so many people struggle to understand TV without subtitles. 

Naturally, there are obvious reasons certain people may struggle to watch TV without subtitles; this includes those who don’t speak the language or suffer from hearing difficulties.

However, the sound mixing of modern TV content is one of the main reasons many other people also struggle to watch TV without subtitles.  

Background music and sounds often drown out the dialogue in countless TV shows and programs. Of course, this makes it easy to miss important parts of dialogue that are being spoken. This phenomenon also contributes to misheard lines of dialogue, only adding to the confusion. 

Watching TV with subtitles is a great way of dealing with this issue and ensuring you don’t miss (or mishear) anything! We’ll outline six of the main benefits of watching TV with subtitles in the next section, which will also touch on why an increasing number of people now prefer watching content with subtitles. 

What Are The Advantages Of Watching TV With Subtitles?

From helping those who are hard of hearing to improving our overall enjoyment of the content, here are six of the main advantages of watching television and other content with subtitles!

Many People Are Deaf Or Hard Of Hearing 

Approximately 600,000 people across all age groups are deaf in the United States, which equates to roughly 0.22% of the total population.

While nearly half of the deaf population in the USA are over 65 years old, approximately 15% of Americans over the age of 18 report hearing difficulties. Subtitles and closed captions greatly benefit deaf and hard-of-hearing people. 

Subtitles can even help those with ANSD (auditory processing disorder). Individuals with ANSD may hear the audio but struggle to make sense of it without subtitles or captions. Ultimately, access to subtitles and captions makes television content a lot more accessible to these individuals. 

People Speak Many Different Languages 

The United States is one of the most linguistically diverse countries, with up to 430 languages spoken in the USA.

Despite this, recent surveys and studies have revealed that approximately 75% of America’s population only speaks English. Due to this, a vast majority of television content is in English. 

Much like subtitles can help English-speaking individuals to understand foreign films and content, subtitles can help people who don’t speak English enjoy mainstream television content. Subtitles can even help these individuals learn new languages, which is the following benefit we’re discussing! 

Subtitles Help People Learn New Languages 

When it comes to learning new languages, watching content in the language you want to learn is one of the best ways to better understand the language you’re learning. While hearing the language spoken is an important part of this, subtitles can enrich the learning experience. 

Studies have proven that subtitles are an effective tool for reinforcing foreign language learning, which was backed up by a study from the Max Planck Institute For Psycholinguistics. This study confirmed that subtitles, when used to supplement regular language studying, helped students learn languages faster. 

Viewers Are More Engaged With Subtitles 

When it comes down to content, whether it’s on the TV or on your smartphone, people generally prefer to watch content that is engaging, accessible, and easy to consume. In recent years, marketers and content creators have realized that captions are a great tool for boosting viewer engagement

The same principle can be applied to television content! A study from the University Of Iowa revealed that subtitles and captions help people retain more information. If you want to prevent content from going in one ear and out the other, subtitles are the perfect solution to keep you engaged when watching TV! 

People Like Watching Videos Without Sounds 

As technology has evolved, so have the ways we enjoy watching content – which is evident in the results from a study of US consumers completed by Verizon Media and Publicis Media.

Of those who partook in the study, 92% revealed they view videos with the sound off on mobile devices. This study also revealed that 80% of respondents are likelier to watch a video until the end when captions are available. 

The reasons people enjoy watching videos without sound include multitasking, being in sound-sensitive areas, and not having headphones handy.

Since we can now stream television content directly from our phones, more viewers are watching videos without sounds. However, access to subtitles is what allows these individuals to enjoy TV content without sound! 

Subtitles Help Improve Our Enjoyment Of TV Content 

Many creators are encouraging viewers to watch content with subtitles on. These creators believe that subtitles add a new dimension to television content and improve our enjoyment of television content. TV captions can even be entertaining in their own way! 

With TV shows like HBO’s Succession, watching with subtitles can often add to the intense comedy. When the fourth season of Netflix’s Stranger Things premiered, many fans also started sharing the funniest subtitles from the acclaimed season on social media. 


Many people have difficulty watching television without subtitles due to the sound mixing of modern TV content. Background sounds and music often drown out the dialogue. Viewers can avoid missing anything important if they watch TV with subtitles. Ultimately, this increases a viewer’s engagement and enjoyment of television content. 

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