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BBC offers crisper dialogues for hard of hearing

Hearing impairment is a partial or total inability to hear a certain syllabus in a word, and it can occur to anyone — almost one in two adults over 65 years experiences some degree of hearing loss.

With the rise of baby-boomers becoming aged, the BBC has announced an experiment to use metadata to change the levels of audio on a programme. The new audio-mix technology, along with the dubbing producer/audio producer will index each sound or group of sounds by the level of importance — allowing the viewer to balance the narrative by turning up the speech while reducing other background sounds or music. This would result in a crisper dialogue for the people with hearing impairment.

The ‘Narrative Balancer’ solution is first showcased on the BBC’s drama, Casualty, which allows viewers to manage the levels of the audio mix. The on-screen slider is able to simplify the mix with volume and sift out important sounds to the narrative. For instance, moving the slider to the right retains the original sound, while moving to the left reduce the sound effects and place focus on the dialogue. Thereafter, the viewer can find the balance between dialogue and other sounds they prefer.

To continually enhance the visual and hearing experience, the BBC’s A&E Audio Project team will continue to analyse the metadata received from viewers, paying close attention to their interactions with the slider and volume.

Image credit: BBC Taster

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