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      Watching TV

      If you struggle to hear the TV and often find yourself turning up the volume, using subtitles or an assistive listening device can make all the difference.

      Subtitles on TV

      Most TV channels have subtitles. Where they are available, you can usually get them by pressing the subtitles button on your remote control, or by pressing the menu button and following the options for language and subtitles.

      However, the availability of subtitles can vary when you watch on-demand TV.

      Most of the UK’s main broadcasters have an on-demand TV service:

      On-demand TV lets you watch what you like, when you like, over the internet. You can catch up with programmes and films you’ve missed, watch entire seasons of your favourite shows, and watch programmes at the time they are broadcast through a live TV stream over the internet.

      You can access these on-demand services in different ways:

      • through the TV channel’s website
      • by downloading free apps from Google Play or the App Store onto your smartphone or tablet device
      • through platforms such as YouView and Now TV. 

      BBC iPlayer has subtitles available on almost all of its programmes, no matter how you access the service.

      The other on-demand services have subtitles available on around 70% to 85% of programmes when you watch through a service's website or app. But subtitles may not be available when you watch these on-demand services through other platforms.

      Subtitles are now available on most BBC iPlayer live streams but not, currently, on other channels' live streams.

      On-demand subscription services

      For a monthly fee (subscription), you can watch a wide range of films and TV programmes online through on-demand services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV.

      Before signing up for any of these services, check whether they have subtitles – not all of them do. Many Netflix programmes are subtitled, as are more than half of the programmes on Amazon services.

      Through our Subtitle it! campaign, we're working with on-demand TV services to increase the amount of subtitled programmes that are available.

      Problems with subtitles or background noise?

      If you find it hard to follow a TV programme because of background noise or music within the programme, or if the subtitles are poor quality, let the channel know, giving the date and time that the programme was broadcast. For our guide on how to write a complaint letter and where to send it, visit actiononhearingloss.org.uk/writeacomplaint

      If you use Twitter, you could also contact the channel with your complaint by sending a Tweet and encouraging your friends and contacts to do the same. Public pressure is the best way to encourage improvements in access to TV when broadcasters aren’t currently meeting with legal requirements.

      Assistive listening devices for watching TV

      If you have to turn up the volume on your TV so loud that it disturbs your family, or you find you're sitting closer and closer to the TV, there are assistive listening devices that allow you to turn down the volume for others, while making it louder and clearer for yourself.

      The products include:

      • Wireless headphones – these let you listen at a volume that's suitable for you.
      • TV listeners – these either come with a neckloop for hearing aid users, or stethoset earbuds for people who don’t use hearing aids.
      • Home hearing loop systems – a loop system can help you hear the TV more clearly through your hearing aids when they’re on the loop (or 'T') setting.
      • TV streamers – these small devices send sound from the TV to your hearing aids and allow you to further adjust the volume and pitch of the sound to your preference. You may need to use an intermediary device for the wireless connection.
      • Remote microphones – you can place a small microphone close to your TV’s loudspeaker and it will pick up the sound and send it straight to your hearing aids.

       
      Please note that wireless headphones and TV listeners can produce very high volume levels. Always increase the volume gradually to find a comfortable level.

      More information

      You can find out more about assistive listening devices in our factsheet Enjoying TV and by visiting our online shop.

       

      Subtitle it campaign logo

      Find out more about our Subtitle it! campaign aiming at improving access to subtitles on video-on-demand content