For much of this century so far - but especially through the 2010s - podcasts have emerged as one of the most popular mediums of cultural discourse. That might sound like something of a roundabout way to refer to them, but it's true: After all, they cover such a massively diverse range of subjects, including the back stories behind the making of strange and forgotten movies, opinions on every sport under the sun, gardening tips, in-depth social and political discussions and everything in between. So referring to podcasts as "pre-recorded radio" seems reductive, even though that's technically what they are.
With all of that being said, those who are hearing impaired might think that this medium of entertainment (and infotainment) is something that they have to settle for missing. But that couldn't be further from the truth. There are several ways in which individuals who happen to be hard of hearing can enliven and enlighten themselves through podcasts. Let's take a look at some of these assistive methods, and also run down some of the best podcasts for which such resources are offered to their listeners.
Video editions with closed captions
It's quite obviously true that podcasts are primarily known as an audio format, but a considerable number of them are available in video format - usually as excerpts, or in truncated form. As such, they will usually have closed captioning available on whatever player is used for them. In fact, some podcasts have even been turned into television shows, like "This American Life" (more on that show later), and those videos almost certainly have subtitles available. So make sure searching for video backup is your first step when looking for podcast enjoyment assistance: It's not guaranteed, but it's also far from impossible to find.
Value of podcasts with written transcripts
Now, you might think that the idea of written records of podcasts might, in and of itself, sort of defeat the purpose of the medium. But bear with us here: Text transcripts of podcasts provide all listeners - hearing impaired or otherwise - an easy way to follow along with the ebb and flow of conversation that makes up these shows. Also, you have the opportunity to check up on a sentence you misheard or a fact you want to make sure you get right when you bring it up in conversation with friends and family!
Kinsey Wilson, senior VP of National Public Radio's Digital Media department, explained the importance written transcripts would have to an audience in a 2009 statement, back when NPR first announced this decision.
"As web content becomes easier to share and distribute, and search and social media have become important drivers of audience engagement, archival content - whether in the form of stories or transcripts - has an entirely different value than it did in the past," Wilson said.
NPR senior librarian Laura Soto-Barra made an even better case for the value of such transcripts based on reasons of simple fairness, by saying, "We have offered free audio for a long time and we felt that free transcripts were long overdue."
Getting ahold of podcast transcripts
There are a few ways by which podcast fans who are hard of hearing can obtain transcripts of their favorite shows, including the following:
Great podcasts with available transcriptions
A person's tastes in podcasts - much like books, movies or music - can't be easily predicted, so we admit that there's no guarantee you'll love the shows we're about to list. Nevertheless, all of the following are considered among the best-known podcasts out there that happen to make transcripts available for some or all episodes:
Let’s take a look at some of these assistive methods, and also run down some of the best podcasts for which such resources are offered to their listeners.