What Does SDH Mean and How Can You Meet Unique Subtitle Needs?

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Understanding Subtitles for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing (SDH)

Subtitles originally helped non-native audiences understand the language spoken in a video. But, gradually, they have evolved to make video content accessible to a wider group of people. Subtitles for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing, or SDH, are one example. By providing more than just standard dialogue, they give people with hearing impairments a richer viewing experience.

What is SDH?

SDH is the most complete form of subtitle you can use. It not only details actors’ speech, but features non-verbal sounds like laughter and music. Plus, it can identify individual speakers through colors, names or alignment.

SDH subtitles are intended for viewers who are deaf, Deaf or hard-of-hearing. The lowercase “deaf” is the term for not being able to hear. The uppercase “Deaf” refers to deaf people who communicate through sign language and are actively engaged in the Deaf community. “Hard-of-hearing” describes a person who has mild to severe hearing loss.

These subtitles are a relatively new invention kickstarted in countries like the U.S. and UK when digital formats like DVDs became popular. Closed captions (CC) — an FCC-mandated form of subtitling — weren’t supported by these formats, so SDH was born.

People with hearing loss can get the same experience as hearing viewers, thanks to SDH. The dialogue, sound effects and speaker tags appear at precise times. Viewers can then get a feel for the scene’s atmosphere and emotion.

SDH subtitle files are also unique because they can contain both sound and language information. This is ideal for native speakers, plus those who don’t speak the language of the video.

The difference between SDH subtitles and closed captions

People often confuse SDH subtitles and closed captions. Unlike regular subtitles, neither assume the audience can hear, so they include non-verbal details to help viewers better understand what they’re watching.

But closed captions and SDH do have several differences:

  • Closed captions show up as white text on a black background. SDH subtitles, however, come in various colors and styles to suit different backgrounds.
  • You’ll often see SDH in the lower bottom third of the screen. Closed captions can appear anywhere.
  • SDH subtitles are timed to match the video, while closed captions may not be as exact.
  • SDH is suitable for high definition (HD) disc media, as it is encoded as a series of pixels. These formats don’t support closed captions, which are encoded as text and commands.

The following could be described as SDH or a closed caption. But its color, font and timing would differ for each method:

[phone rings from the bedroom]

Sarah: Just let me get that. 

Creating SDH subtitles with Rev

Increasing the accessibility of your videos can broaden your reach in more ways than one. More than 450 million people have hearing loss across the globe. SDH subtitles can enrich their lives, and help them engage with your videos and amplify your message. You can gain the same benefits from foreign language speakers and those without the ability to play audio too.

Our SDH service steers clear of error-filled automated technology. Instead, we use real people to create accurate SDH subtitles for your video content. We’ll work to meet your exact needs and welcome any glossaries, scripts and notes that help us do just that.