I was asked recently for a recommendation as to how to help to better understand the words of a sermon. The individual was hearing impaired and was having difficulty in this area. I think their thought was, ‘Is there a tech tool to help with this problem?’
I myself am profoundly hearing impaired and use a combination of hearing aids and self-taught lip reading to maintain a reasonable level of comprehension. The normal techniques to improve comprehension are:
– increase the volume and adjust the sound (hearing aids)
– reduce the side noise (headphones receiving the information, getting closer to the source, telling others to quiet down, etc.)
– if already wearing hearing aids, there are FM or remote microphones that can be placed on the speaker that directly send the content to the hearing aid.
One problem with these solutions is that they all tend to work on putting high or higher volume sound into the ears, which can be fatiguing over time. As well, it tends to isolate the person from others and some are embarrassed to be identified as deaf/hard of hearing.
In this particular case, the sermons are being video-recorded and uploaded to YouTube. One of the tools YouTube applies to all uploaded video is the close-captioning of the audio. This can be turned on by the viewer and adds the text below the video like sub-titles in a movie. While the translation is not perfect, it is amazing how good a job it does. Personally, I would not want to watch anything without a close-caption because it helps immensely in total comprehension especially when the speaker has an accent or speaks softly.