How to Make Podcasts Better for People with Hearing Loss
The average American listened to more than 16 hours in -depth online audio – such as podcasts – every week. That’s 17 percent more than last year.
But not everyone is easy to listen to.
Most people with hearing loss is access podcasts: Meanwhile 1 in every 6 adults in the UK affected by some hearing loss, only about 12 per cent of adults are severely or severely deaf. So depending on the audio quality, listening environment, and access to hearing aids or noise cancellation headphones, it is definitely possible for most people with hearing loss to enjoy podcasts.
However, people with hearing loss may also find listening to podcasts a challenge. JN Benjamin, an audio producer with an auditory processing disorder, described it as having no control over what his brain was processing, causing him to “hear too much.”
“In short,” he says, “I have no control over what my brain chooses to process, and there are a variety of things that trigger it and create stress.” And so when it comes to podcasts, sound design is even more important for Benjamin and other people with auditory processing disorders, because so many sounds can be heard that other people may not be able to absorb.
Auditory processing disease can, on the face of it, seem to be the opposite of hearing loss – with one, the listener of sounds may be absent, and in others, the listener can hear less than other people.
But when it comes to podcasts, the challenges are the same.
Fortunately, there are a few things audio content creators can do to make their content more accessible for listeners who are hard of hearing or those with auditory processing disorders, and more luckily, many of the changes will greatly enhance the experience for all audiences.
Clear and Well Speaking, Always
Professional and grade software recording equipment may not be available to everyone, but you can set it up the basic marketing tools for a few hundred dollars.
Recording equipment is not the only indicator of sound quality.
Karen Shepherd, director of professional standards at Boots HearingCare and former president of the British Academy of Audiology (BAA), emphasized the good quality of sound production, with little competing sound. If you have multiple offers, for example, it’s important that they don’t talk to each other.
As well as a clear technical record, clarity of language can also be important. Lauren Ward, who researches media access at the University of York, says we can more easily understand accents that are familiar to us.
This doesn’t rule out podcasting for people with a strong regional accent, but speaking slowly and speaking can be especially helpful to listeners who are hard of hearing.
Pay Attention to Post-Production
There are a number of things post-production producers can do to make audio sound clearer.
Independent podcast and BBC presenter Callum Ronan has tasked the producers to take the recording and editing steps:
- Balance the audio for the left and right channels of the headphones / speakers
- Remove bleeding from microphones to avoid echoes or delays
- Mix the content to balance the sound levels of multiple hosts
- Working at a standard LUFS power -16 to -18 to prepare the file for publishing
View Your Backing Tracks and Ambient Sound
For most people, auditory scene analysis, or the ability to select a sound amidst a noisy environment, is second nature.
Ward suggests thinking about the last time you were at a party, with lots of conversations, low background music, and clinking glasses. Most people with regular listening are able to “zoom in” on the speech they want and block out other sounds.