Nearly 25 percent of Americans aged 65 to 74 have age-related hearing loss, and that number increases to 50 percent in Americans aged 75 and older.1 Age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss in adults, and age-related hearing loss has more effects on lives than you may realize.2


When listeners with age-related hearing loss increase their efforts to hear sounds, their ability to comprehend and remember speech is significantly and negatively impacted. This increased listening effort is a hidden effect of hearing loss, but it is crucially important in understanding the challenges adults with age-related hearing loss face.3


Fortunately, captions are a promising route that may reduce age-related hearing loss challenges by:

  • Improving perception, comprehension, and memory, even when background noise is present.
  • Aiding in hearing sounds clearer and faster.
  • Helping in understanding sounds, sometimes even better than hearing aids.3

Several studies have explored how captions can truly benefit adults with age-related hearing loss, including four landmark studies that show how captions can provide adults with age-related hearing loss tools to overcome challenges they may face.

Conversation Comprehension

In the first study, researchers asked participants to listen to a list of digits. The first half of the list was presented with clear sounds, and the second half of the list was presented with background noise. After participants listened to the entire list, they were asked to repeat the digits. Listeners tried so hard to hear the digits in the background noise that most forgot the digits at the beginning.4

This study showed that adults with age-related hearing loss may have a harder time not only understanding sounds with background noise, but that conversation comprehension and memory may be lost with too much background noise. This is why it is so crucial that aging adults with hearing loss have access to tools, such as captions, that can help them understand sounds in a conversation.

Seeing and Hearing Are Key

Researchers in the second study presented participants with different sentences that varied in complexity. Results showed older adults with hearing impairments had difficulty comprehending and remembering the sentences when they were spoken quickly, although they could still accurately perceive what was being said.5

This study points to how perception, comprehension, and memory of speech are all improved in adults with age-related hearing loss when they can see and hear what is being said. Other studies have shown that even just a 1 dB improvement in signal-to-noise ratio can correspond to an increase of ten percent or more in listener comprehension and memory.3 The improvement seen in this second study is equivalent to a speech-to-noise ratio of as much as 15 dB, which shows a radical increase in comprehension and memory.

Words and Sounds Work Together

In a third landmark study, researchers showed participants two videos with both captions and sounds. In the first video, the captions and sounds matched, and in the second video, the captions and sounds did not match. The results of the study concluded sounds and words (such as captions in a conversation) work together, particularly in adults with age-related hearing loss, not only to help listeners understand sounds better but also to hear sounds clearer and faster.6

Captions Versus Hearing Aids

In the last study, researchers determined that real-time closed captioning of speech in television improves comprehension in adults with hearing loss. What’s even more interesting, however, is that this study showed that the effects of captions outweighed the effects of hearing aids. In fact, hearing aids provided no benefit to recognizing words when captioning was available.7 This study shows just how important captions can be—even more important than hearing aids in some cases!

Captioning Conversations

CaptionCall provides advanced call captioning so adults with age-related hearing loss can better comprehend and remember conversations, even when background noise is present. This no-cost captioning solution, for those who have hearing loss that necessitates the use of captions to use the phone, can allow users to understand sounds clearer and faster than they would with a non-captioning phone.

To learn more about how CaptionCall can help adults with age-related hearing loss, visit www.captioncall.com.

1 https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-hearing

2 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaotolaryngology/article-abstract/2592954

3 Text Captioning Buffers Against the Effects of Background Noise and Hearing Loss on Memory for Speech

4 Rabbitt, P. M. (1968). Channel-capacity, intelligibility and immediate memory. Q J Exp Psychol, 20, 241–248.

5 Wingfield, A., McCoy, S. L., Peelle, J. E., Tun, P. A., Cox, L. C. (2006). Effects of adult aging and hearing loss on comprehension of rapid speech varying in syntactic complexity. J Am Acad Audiol, 17, 487–497.

6 Frost, R., & Katz, L. (1989). Orthographic depth and the interaction of visual and auditory processing in word recognition. Mem Cognit, 17,302–310.

7 Gordon-Salant, S., & Callahan, J. S. (2009). The benefits of hearing aids and closed captioning for television viewing by older adults with hearing loss. Ear Hear, 30, 458–465.