Experiments with T-Coil and Captioning Glasses at the Movie Theater

As I’ve explained before, I get different channels on my implant.  No…not HBO vs. ESPN.  Instead it’s a choice of one microphone, two microphones, or the t-coil setting.  I hadn’t really had much of a chance to try out the t-coil.  It seems most phones aren’t really compatible (???!!!), so not many opportunities to use it.

Then last week, my wife Tracy and I went to the local mall after learning we can see ANY movie at ANY time.  Let me explain…

When I first became deaf, movies were out of the question.  Then they developed something called rear-view captioning, where words are projected on the back of the movie theater, and then you put a plastic reflective thing in your cup holder to catch the reflection of the words, hopefully being able to set up everything just right so you’re reading the words under the projection of the movie.  Here’s a graphic showing how it works:

A graphic of man sitting in seat reading captions on a screen while watching movie.

Image from http://ehotelier.com/hospitality-news/item.php?id=P20207

This was tricky because if the plastic thing was falling down (which it often did), the screen was scratched (which it usually was), or the rear projector stopped working (as it often did) then the whole experience fell apart.  At one time in Boston, I probably had half-dozen free movie tickets because the theaters had to keep giving me back money when their rear-view projectors stopped working.

Then the theaters came up with open captioning.  Just like on TV, but in a movie theater.  So locally in Syracuse, this meant that every week the theater would show an open-captioned movie at least a couple times each day.  The system is great.  The problem is that none of the hearing people wanted to go see the movie – every time I went there were usually fewer than five people in the theater.  So it was a good way for theaters to lose a lot of money.  And sometimes there were weeks in a row where all the open captioned movies were bad, or movies I didn’t want to see.

Here’s a strange example of open captioning (the only one I found online):

Movie screen showing captioned words on bottom in yellow.

From http://www.natoonline.org/infocus/03november/insight.htm

Well now the local movie theater has a new system where people wear weird futuristic glasses (they even fit over regular glasses).  You also wear a little black box – it’s attached to a string you wear around your neck like a necklace or ID/key lanyard.  So the theater broadcasts captions out, the little black box catches them and they’re relayed to the glasses.  So as I looked at the screen, I saw little green words with all the captions.  Sounds complicated, but it was great!  I can see any movie at any time, the theater was packed with “regular” movie-goers, and I could sit anywhere in the theater.  Tracy tried it out, too.  Here’s a picture of her wearing the device.

Picture of Tracy wearing glasses

Tracy and I have heard a few complaints.  Some people say they feel dizzy with trying to look at close-up words and far-away movie screens.  Others feel like the glasses draw attention to them being deaf.  I think the whole “oh gosh, people might know I’m deaf” thing is just ridiculous.   It’s not like there’s a lot of stigma attached to being deaf, and if people are ashamed to use accommodations and services, then we’re just putting ourselves “back in the closet” so to speak.  Not a good move…

Anyway…got into the theater and Tracy remembered the movie theaters all usually have a loop system, so people with t-coils in their hearing aids or implants can connect to the sound of the film.  So I turned it on.

I definitely picked up sounds from the movie, but it wasn’t intelligible and wasn’t nearly as interesting or cool as the captioning with the glasses.  I wasn’t terribly impressed.  The sound was also really quiet, so I have to ask my audiologist to crank up the volume a bit.

Tracy and I are already booking babysitters so we can go out and see some more movies.

I laughed at us staring at the movie listings in the ticket booth.  We looked so indecisive, trying to figure out what to see.  But in our 18 years together, we’ve never had to decide which one to see…the theater always chose our movies for us!

Hotel transylvania poster

“Hotel Transylvania” image from http://www.natoonline.org/infocus/03november/insight.htm

We ultimately decided to do a mindless fun movie and saw “Hotel Transylvania,” about Count Dracula, who invites every monster he knows to a 118th birthday party for his daughter, and then deals with a funny low-key surfer-dude human who accidentally stumbles into the party.  Probably wouldn’t have been quite as  entertaining without the glasses and our light-hearted mood, but it was a fun way to kick off our new adventures at the movies!

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