Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH): What are they?

According to WHO (World health organization), around 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss. Of this number, 34 million are children. That is a large audience. An audience that requires Subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing to enjoy your content.

If you’re a localization or translation professional, you may have heard of subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, or the acronym SDH. Often there’s a lot of confusion surrounding what this service actually is, making it crucial to understand this subtitling service, as it has become a large part of video localization.
Subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing are not subtitles or closed captions. So, let’s find out what they are and why you should be using them?

What are captions, subtitles, and subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing?

It is important to understand the differences in these three localization services as the terms are often used interchangeably. Whilst subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing are somewhat a combination of captions and subtitles, the misunderstanding of each service can cause production issues that are easily avoidable.

Closed Captions

Closed Captions are intended for those in the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. The captions are lines of text including any audible information from the video. This isn’t only dialogue, it also includes noises such as coughing, sound effects, and music cues. Closed captions are not translated text, unlike subtitles and SDH.


Subtitles are intended for an audience that doesn’t speak the video’s original language. The audio is translated into lines of text that are timed with the visuals. Whilst most of this is the dialogue it also includes signs, on-screen titles, etc. You would not see the on-screen text included in closed captions as they only provide audible information from the video.

Subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing include non-dialogue information, such as background sounds, music descriptions and any other non-verbal sounds. SDH combine audio and visual information in one file, that is then translated for foreign-language audiences, making it accessible for those in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

Can I just translate captions to make SDH?

Definitely not! As I mentioned previously, captions do not include non-audible content. So, there would be no translation for on-screen titles etc. Not to mention that closed captions add certain things, such as character or speaker names, that can’t be added to an existing sub file. It is of great importance to make your content accessible.

Do I need SDH Subtitles for my video content?

SDH have become a standard deliverable for video localization. Therefore making it highly important to add accessibility to your videos. Many countries have different accessibility requirements, and many more are expanding them. So, for a fairly small investment, making your content accessible goes a long way.

In addition, there are so many benefits from doing so. You are able to reach a global audience and provide accessibility to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community in those target markets. As well as keeping up with competitors.

Want to reach more audiences with your content? SPG offers voiceover services in over 40+ languages. Speak with one of our experts today:

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