Sometimes the World Sounds Like Charlie Brown’s Teacher

I have a confession to make:  I don’t have speakers for my (desktop) computer.  Well, I mean, I have them but I don’t have them hooked up.  In the fall of 2012 we completely changed our computer desk situation, and we went from this:

Our 'Command Center' before -- mostly shows the top of the desks, but trust me, it was huge!  (Two massive desks next to each other.)

Our ‘Command Center’ before — mostly shows the top of the desks, but trust me, it was huge! (Two massive desks next to each other.)

to this:

The two-person computer desk that Dave made

The two-person computer desk that Dave made

(And the ‘before’ picture doesn’t show the full glory of the hulking behemoths containing our two desktop computers, two printers, etc. etc. which extended completely through the dining room and halfway into the living room.)

When we made the change, Dave waved my computer speakers at me and asked if I wanted them hooked up and, if so, where did I want them?  I looked at the nice clean desk and decided I didn’t need the speakers.  I use sound so little with my computer, and if I do use it, I almost always wear headphones so I don’t bother everyone around me with what I’m listening to.  Now I have no choice but to use headphones if I want to hear anything on the computer — no big deal.

Part of the reason I rarely watch videos (the main reason I’d need to hear sound) is because I’m still used to thinking I can’t.  Back in the day, our (dial-up) internet connection wasn’t all that great and you just couldn’t properly watch a video – it was all stuttery and half the time wouldn’t fully load.  Those days are long gone, but I am the embodiment of the expression ‘old habits die hard.’  Every time I click on a video and it looks fine, I get a little thrill.  Look at me with my fancy computer!

The other reason is that I still need captions, and almost nothing is captioned online.  The Youtube translation/captioning that they offer on most videos is horrendous – have you ever tried it?  It’s laughably bad; sometimes not even one word is properly captioned.  If you have a few minutes and want to see a great (hilarious) example of it, watch the video below.  What they did was act out a short little script, and let Youtube do the automatic captions.  Then they took the words that Youtube came up and re-acted the skit using those words.  They do it a third time as well, and besides being hilarious, it’s a great example of how bad the captioning really is.  The skits aren’t that long, and it’s worth a viewing.

I tried to embed the video, but it isn’t working, so right-click on this link and open it in a new window:

Sort of in this category is another funny Youtube channel – Bad Lipreading (

Since I lipread, this really fascinates me and cracks me up.  They have videos with and without captioning, and I can only understand the captioned ones.  (Luckily the captioning is spot-on for these.)

Even though I can test amazingly in a sound booth with my CIs on, it just doesn’t translate to the real world for me.  (Probably because the real world isn’t in a sound booth!)  I’m sure it also has to do with the type of hearing loss I have and the fact that I have some of my high frequency electrodes turned off in my CI programs.  For whatever reason, if I’m watching TV or a movie, or listening on the phone, I need to see faces or have captions to make sense of what I’m hearing.  Otherwise it’s like Charlie Brown’s teacher:  “Blah, blah blah blah.”  I can hear it, but it’s just noise.

There was a truly hysterical scene in an episode of Louie, where Louis CK is calling in an order to a deli and he can’t understand the heavily-accented man who answers the phone.  I tried to find a video of it and I can’t find the whole clip, unfortunately.  This is just a trailer for the episode, and it cuts out one of the best lines in the exchange, but it still illustrates really well what it’s like for me to talk on the phone.  (The video is short , but you have to put in your birth date since the show is rated MA.  Which is weird, because the trailer has nothing Mature in it, but whatever – watch it, it’s funny!  Be warned though, it’s not captioned…but I’ll explain it in a sec.)  I can’t seem to embed this one either, so (again) right-click and open it in a new window:

So, he’s ordering orange juice and the guy says, “Pulp?”  And the scene proceeds, as so:

“Pulp?” –Deli guy

“What?” -Louie

“Pulp.” –Deli guy

“Is there a – do you have a synonym?” –Louie

The guy then says something more, like, “The orange juice, do you want pulp in it or not?” and then Louie finally gets it.  In the full scene, though, the ‘Pulp?’ exchange went on longer and at one point Louie mutters something like, “It’s just NOISE, I don’t…” and I was yelling at the TV, “Yes!!  I know what you mean!”  (By the way, he also orders 15 bananas and ends up getting 60…haha…another example of how easy it is to mis-hear things!)

So yea, that’s how it is for me and Dave.  Give us captions on everything, please and thank you!


About wendiwendy

I'm a real-life bionic woman.

Posted on March 10, 2013, in Cochlear Implants & Hearing Loss, Humor, Observations and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Your last sentence I completely agree with 🙂


  2. I just discovered your blog and I’m really enjoying it. I definitely identify with everything sounding like the adults in Charlie Brown unless I can speech read. I think this is hard for other people to understand sometimes since I do pretty well one on one in the right environment. People will talk about their favorite radio shows, podcasts, or TED videos and I have to explain that without captions I don’t really get much from them. Cranking up the volume doesn’t really help. The Charlie Brown teacher metaphor helps sometimes because I explain that at higher volume, it’s just louder gibberish.

    I generally avoid internet videos for the same reasons you said. They’re rarely captioned, and the automatic captioning is useless. Sometimes on news websites I’ll see an interesting story and then be disappointed to realize that it’s a video.

    I’m glad the netflix is making progress in captioning more of their streaming content in response to a lawsuit, and Amazon has been sued recently too. But I know that captioning is often expensive and time consuming and not practical for the majority of internet videos.


    • Thanks, Doug! 🙂

      I know what you mean about volume — everyone wants to helpfully turn up the TV, but all it does is make it go from ‘blah blah blah’ to ‘BLAH BLAH BLAH.’

      Like you, I’m always disappointed to find out a news story is a video instead of text.

      It doesn’t help that I tend to like documentaries and indie films, and it’s really hard to find those captioned. But we keep on keeping on…at least advances are being made in the right direction, as you said. 😀


  3. I agree completely. I hate watching online videos for that reason the captions are always wrong… but I can get some idea, with the sounds and the wrong words I can fix the words in my head myself- I’ve been basically trained since I was about 4 to use captions- I love them! (I’ve had a severe to profound hearing loss since I was born) -and I also find that netflix is the same way. I always storm off and get mad when the family watches stuff on netflix, makes me feel guilty.

    I’ve also found it happens on the phone. I worship whoever the person was who invented the speakerphone!


    • Online videos who only have automated captioning available is terrible I agree. If you are interest in advocacy to see more online content captioned correctly you might want to join the CCAC – completely free. Its members are made up of users and providers. Do you find Netflix does not provide captions? Which country are you accessing from?


      • I know this response was for jennpower, but I have to chime in — we don’t have a Netflix account anymore, but when we did, it was very tricky to find streaming content with subtitles. (Maybe this has changed since we were members?) I used to use Phlixie to find streamed, captioned Netflix content. Their DVDs were usually pretty good, unless it was an indie or documentary — I just wish they were more specific about a DVD *not* having subtitles.

        Once we got a WII it was easier to watch subtitled content through Netflix (I’m in the US) but just watching from the computer connected to the TV was very, very hit or miss (mostly miss). That’s part of the reason we canceled Netflix, besides the big increase in fees.

        Love the CCAC and second that recommendation! 🙂


  4. Hi Wendi – I asked because Netflix were sued by the NAD for a lack of captions and funningly enough since then have started to provide them. That in itself is slightly controversial as they are providing captions via crowdsource volunteers! Pros and cons with this I think.


  5. I’m in Canada. I’ll have to try the Wii. Good idea. 🙂


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