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Closed vs. Open Captions

Captioning your videos or streams can provide your organization with a wealth of benefits. Providing meaningful service to the 48 million deaf or hard of hearing in the U.S. and complying with ADA mandates may top your list, but the benefits do not end there. Recent studies have shown that videos with captions have increased viewership across the spectrum—approximately 80 percent of viewers of captioned videos have no hearing impairment. With such a wide range of viewers utilizing captions, it goes without saying that adding captions can boost your content with longer viewing times, increased comprehension, greater brand recall, and broader audiences since the information is easier to engage with.

Captions are on-screen text that display synchronized written descriptions of relative audio elements, such as dialogue, sounds (laughter, music, etc.), and speaker identification found in a video product for the primary purpose of making the information accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Captions can be either OPEN or CLOSED, and the type you choose to utilize for your content will be dependent upon multiple factors.

Open Captions

Open captions are always in view and cannot be turned off.


  • Provides easy accessibility and comprehension, especially for deaf/hard of hearing individuals and users with limited technology skills.
  • Open captions do not require special functionality for media players or streaming platforms to be able to display.
  • Captions are always in view, so users can easily engage with your content on devices in the midst of loud venues or silent areas—from a television playing across the room in a busy restaurant to watching a video while rocking a baby.
  • Caption styles (font, size, etc.) can be determined ahead of time – prior to embedding them in a video.


  • Distracting to some viewers, as the captions are always in view
  • Archiving and indexing content is not available, since open captions are an actual part of the video stream.
  • Potential loss of quality when the encoded video is compressed or a stream is of low-quality, sometimes causing captions to be blurry and difficult to read.


Closed captions can be turned on and off by the viewer. These are the most common and are used by major broadcasters and video streaming services.


  • Captions are able to be displayed or hidden at will.
  • All video displayed on television sets sold for use in the US since 1993 have decoders built in to allow viewing of closed captions.
  • Most major media viewer software applications now support closed captions.
  • Closed captions exist as a separate text stream, so if captions are preserved as text, it allows users to archive, index, and search for specific video content.
  • Can be created in a range of file formats.
  • Allow for easy editing because they are a separate file.
  • No loss of quality when the encoded video is compressed.


  • End-user needs to understand how to turn captions on via TV or media viewer.
  • Not always compatible with some media players and streaming platforms--only platforms supporting closed caption files.
  • Some products support closed captions in their stand-alone client versions, but not always in browser-embedded or handheld versions of their products.


Choosing to caption is an important decision, as it allows you to connect with your audience in the most far-reaching, convenient, and accessible manner.

While there are advantages and obstacles to both open and closed captioning, the best selection for your specific content will be dependent upon many factors, some of which include:

  • Who is your audience (primarily deaf/hard of hearing, people in a large area where sound would be otherwise difficult to hear, tech or non-tech savvy individuals, etc.)?
  • What is your specific product/content (video that may require regular editing, content directed specifically toward a particular people group, one-time events, advertisements, etc.)?
  • Where will it be used (large venue, noisy areas, quiet offices, at home, etc.)?
  • What platform will you be using? If Facebook, YouTube, etc., closed captioning works best, but take note that some web hosting services do not support closed captioning.

Upon careful consideration, you will be able to select the best type of captioning to achieve your goals.


At Link Electronics we are eager to help you reach your goals related to captioning. We have been providing quality products at competitive prices, alongside excellent service, for over 30 years. Let us know how we can help.

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