Why SDH Subtitles are Key to Improve Child Literacy

SDH subtitles are a mix of subtitles and closed captions developed for people with hearing impairments. The acronym SDH stands for Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. This type of subtitles can be in the video's original language because it contains non-dialogue audio sound effects and speaker identification. Therefore, SDH subtitles are created in a way that assumes the viewer is unable to hear the audio. In addition, SDH subtitles emulate closed captions on digital connections like HDMI, as they do not support closed captions.

SDH subtitles contain a text transcription of the spoken conversation in the same language as the subtitles, as well as additional text annotation of surrounding sounds and music. For people who cannot understand the spoken conversation or the accents, SDH subtitling allows them to better comprehend the content.

In terms of appearance, layout, and encoding, SDH Subtitles differ hugely from subtitles and closed captions. SDH subtitles, contrary to popular assumptions, aren't just an unpleasant screen setting that gets in the way of your enjoyment. In fact, it's the exact opposite. They enable millions of media consumers around the world to watch any video content they like.

The major reason for including SDH subtitles is to ensure that as many people as possible can view your video. Over 460 million individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing throughout the world won’t be able to engage with your video content without SDH Subtitles.

However, these subtitles are not only necessary for the 5% of the world’s population who have hearing impairments. They are also useful in the teaching of young children and the advancement of child literacy.

Reading and listening at the same time help younger learners in decoding words and improving their reading skills. Experts in child literacy have discovered that when words occur in subtitle form frequently during a video, it cements that term into their vocabulary.

Jim Trelease, an American schoolteacher, once proposed that children above the age of eight should watch TV with the sound turned off. He believes that in silence, they would be able to understand their favorite shows by reading the on-screen SDH subtitles.

Before fully understanding the impact that SDH subtitles have on education, it is helpful to grasp the reasons why children should be familiar with them.

Why Should Children be Familiar with SDH Subtitles?

With SDH subtitles, children can have the combination of enjoying their favorite programs while learning from them at the same time. This learning curve goes through two major aspects:

Improve early childhood literacy 

The Turn on the Subtitles (TOTS) campaign, which advocates for broadcasters and streamers to turn on SDH subtitles by default for viewers aged six to ten, has recently boosted awareness of the benefits of SDH subtitles for children. It aims to enhance parental knowledge of the benefits that SDH subtitles have in terms of developing children's reading skills.

Subtitles in the same language enhance children's literacy skills as well. While the TOTS campaign's efforts are admirable, it's worth noting that SDH subtitles can do more than only improve children's reading skills. They also serve the essential purpose of enabling access to deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers.

Around the world, an estimated 34 million children have hearing loss. These young people continue to push for improved subtitling on television and social media. SDH subtitles also can help young viewers who face other difficulties, such as autism and dyslexia, in their education.

Subtitling for deaf children is a topic that deserves special attention since it allows deaf children to participate in a part of the "world" that is meant for all children. If they come across subtitles that are difficult to understand in terms of reading speed or language use, they may feel excluded or inadequate.

Better language learning

Children find motivation in studying languages if they watch foreign-language films and shows with SDH subtitles in their native language. Indeed, they can learn vocabulary and increase their competency in other languages by watching subtitled content.

Giving children access to educational content in various languages allows them to learn about children from different cultures. At the same time, it will help them identify with those who speak languages other than their own.

Increasing children's exposure to foreign films and television shows with SDH subtitles is a simple technique to encourage language development. Given the drop in language learning in some parts of the world, this practice is critical in today’s world.

Moreover, teachers and educational media content producers can use subtitled videos more effectively at school as a motivating tool. It would play a significant role in increasing child literacy and language acquisition. Children are spending more time in front of screens than before, and they are using more multimedia tools as well. Therefore, It is the ideal time to raise awareness of SDH subtitles' educational benefits whilst keeping children engaged and motivated.

The Impact of SDH Subtitles on Education

Studies show that turning on SDH subtitles in the same language as the TV show or film can help children improve their reading skills. When used as a teaching tool or for amusement outside the classroom, watching video content with the same language subtitles can improve children's decoding skills. It can also enhance their ability to apply their previous understanding of letters and sounds to correctly pronounce words.

In addition, it can facilitate the development of their vocabulary, as well as their understanding and reading fluency.

SDH subtitles are also useful in enhancing the literacy skills of young students who are economically disadvantaged and struggling readers. They come in very handy to minority language speakers who are learning the official language of the country in which they reside and attend schooling.

Therefore, SDH subtitles are without a doubt the most effective way to ensure that video content material is accessible to the biggest possible audience. At the same time, it makes sure to give children the possibility of enhancing their literacy abilities.

As a matter of fact, children start watching TV before they can read. Subtitling techniques that allow children to enhance their reading abilities and absorb information while watching a film are beneficial.

That is accurate for any young audience, but it is especially accurate for hearing-impaired young viewers. Indeed, they typically require more time to learn to read fluently and thus may benefit from an additional adaptation of subtitles that allows visual solutions that are suitable with their way of communicating and understanding the world.

Whilst regular subtitles assume that the audience can hear the audio but cannot understand the spoken language, SDH subtitles presume that the viewer cannot hear the audio, which is a huge benefit for every child's learning process at the youngest age.

For deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences, SDH subtitles are among the major methods that deliver the spoken language in audiovisual products. It appears to have gained momentum in the audiovisual translation sector, due to two factors. First, it is a fairly affordable and quick solution. Second, the deaf and hard of hearing community is shifting towards orality, as most of their children are in mainstream schools. Moreover, in deaf people's organizations, 89.6% of children and teens communicate via oral language.

As a result, while sign language interpreting is still essential, it is becoming less so for the overall deaf and hard of hearing community. With SDH subtitles, spoken language is purely communicated through subtitles.

SDH subtitles are essential for video making for a good number of reasons, not the least of which is how they assist the deaf and hard of hearing. Subtitles that include a lot of details provide many advantages. It is a huge step for all sorts of audiences towards benefitting from SDH subtitles for better comprehension.


Overall, it is fair to say that SDH subtitles for children are a growing topic of study. It is eager for innovative solutions and original research despite its discrete nature. SDH research for children has always primarily focused on the linguistic code and subtitling speed.

However, accumulating a large amount of factual data is insufficient. It is important to continue to improve the understanding of how hearing-impaired children read in an audiovisual context. Therefore, it will be possible to carry on studies into the various audiences' needs and preferences.

It is essential to go further and address unexplored topics such as the acceptance of visual-based rather than text-based solutions. Guidelines are necessary for the industry to reflect the demands of the audience through resources that are already successful.

Furthermore, we are seeing accessibility evolve as a visually pleasing approach. It is about time that this transition reached under-researched audiovisual accessibility subfields like SDH subtitles for kids. To find out more about factors that make SDH subtitles worth the use on online videos, check out our blog article here.