Subtitles, Headphones I Enjoy With Television

I delight in using wireless headphones and printed subtitles when I view DVDs on our TV set.

We ditched satellite reception four years ago. We use our two TV sets only for viewing DVDs and VCR tapes. The downstairs flat “smart” TV is also used by visiting children and grandchildren to connect to Netflix, Hulu, etc., but only while they are here. My wife and I have not mastered connecting to those services.

A while ago, when we viewed TV in groups, my choices had been unpleasant: Either struggle to hear the voices, or make others uncomfortable by using the high volume levels that permit me to hear the TV sounds.

My son Greg got me hooked on the headphones.

Greg, now 40, has Down syndrome, plus conditions and ailments characteristic of that genetic status. One is a tendency toward hearing loss.

Greg, who grew up in DuBois, now lives in a group home in Warren. He is a frequent visitor here. To accommodate him, we got a set of wireless headphones. The headset is powered by batteries. The transmitter to the headphones uses house current.

Volume levels are separate for the headphones and for the TV. When Greg, a creature of routine, endlessly watches DVD reruns of “Smallville” or the musical “Annie,” we can mute the TV speakers entirely if we choose, or enjoy the sound at lower levels than Greg is using with his headphones.

In between Greg’s visits, the headphones mostly just hung there.

“Hmm,” I mused, as I prepared to view “The Outlaw Josey Wales” for the umpteenth time on an evening when my wife, no Josey Wales fan, was not at home.

I started the movie, turned on the headphones and put them on.

Voila! I could hear with a clarity that surpassed the TV set’s sound, and the dogs and cats were not driven off the front porch that juts off the wall behind the TV set.

That solved one problem, volume level.

Gloom and doom presents another problem: About half of what other people say to me is “heard” by my lip reading.

Ever tried to read lips in near-total darkness?

Many modern motion pictures are filmed in “natural” lighting — which seems stupid to me. If it is dark, one cannot see. Motion pictures are created to be seen. D’oh.

Yet directors are enamored of what we used to call verisimilitude, the appearance of reality.

It was not always so. I run across old “Roy Rogers,” “The Cisco Kid,” or similar vintage programs from the 1950s and 1960s.

“Dark” rooms are simulated by a brightly glowing lamp and a touch of overexposure on the film. Roy, twin pistols in hand, is easily seen as he stalks through rooms searching for the bad guy. Violence-averse Roy usually cold-cocks the miscreant rather than shooting him, but everything can be clearly viewed.

“Josey Wales” is not too bad in that regard, because most of the scenes are set outdoors and in daylight. The few other scenes are staged at dusk.

Not so for “The Departed,” a Jack Nicholson thriller about gangsters and lawmen-turned-crooks. Its nighttime scenes are set in nighttime. I can see gun flashes and shadowy figures running here and there. I cannot see faces, much less read lips.

Aha. Subtitles!

Those printed words at the bottom of the screen annoyed me when I first saw them as translations of foreign language films shown in movie theaters. Now, I see their value – or, more properly, come to “hear” the movies through subtitles.

Even English language films become more understandable to me if I couple wireless headphones with subtitles.

When I am with others, I usually turn off the subtitles unless others indicate that they, too, can benefit from them.

But I love the wireless headphones. Their only drawback is that I sometimes entirely miss the “Would you like some popcorn?” invitation while the bowl is being proffered. In our house, that is not a problem; I make sure that I have my own bowl of popcorn.

Of course, much of what passes for live television entertainment or news these days does not include subtitles.

But we do not receive live TV. My tastes are mired in the 20th Century. I get great pleasure from revisiting “those thrilling days of yesteryear.”

What “thrilling days?”

Why, who can forget?

“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty “‘Hi Yo Silver … Away!’ With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the Plains led the fight for law and order in the early West.

“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!”

Pass the popcorn.


Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: