Closed Captions vs Subtitles: What is the Difference?

Closed captions and subtitles are essential tools for ensuring that videos are accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as those who are not native speakers of the language in which the video is presented.

While many people use the terms "closed captions" and "subtitles" interchangeably, there are some important differences between the two that are important to understand.

In this post, we’ll explore the differences between closed captions and subtitles, including how they are used, their functionality, and their benefits. We will also look at how they can improve the viewing experience for people with hearing impairments, as well as how they can help content creators reach a wider audience.

Additionally, we will discuss the various types of closed captions and subtitles, as well as some of the challenges associated with creating them, such as dealing with non-speech elements like sound effects and background noises. And how innovative tools like Simon Says help to make adding captions and subtitles a breeze.

Whether you are a video creator, a marketer, or a consumer of video content, understanding the difference between closed captions and subtitles is crucial for creating an inclusive and accessible viewing experience.

Note: Simon Says offers a reliable and professional solution for subtitling and captioning videos through the use of AI-powered software. The platform works with several top video editors including DaVinci Resolve and Adobe Premiere Pro.

What are captions?

Captions are text overlays that appear on-screen, providing a written representation of spoken words, sound effects, and other audio elements. Captions are used for various purposes, including accessibility for those who are hard of hearing or deaf, improving comprehension for those learning a foreign language, and making content more discoverable on search engines and social media platforms.

There are two main types of captions: open captions, which are permanently embedded in the video file and cannot be turned off, and closed captions, which can be turned on and off by the viewer. Closed captions are created using a captioning service or subtitling service and can be formatted in various ways. For example, you can use different languages such as Spanish or English, or different functionalities like SDH subtitles.

What are subtitles?

Subtitles are a text form of translation or transcription that appears at the bottom of a video screen. They provide viewers with a written representation of the dialogue spoken in a foreign language. Subtitles are an essential tool for individuals who are not fluent in the language spoken in a video as they help them to understand and follow along with the content. Subtitles are also used for individuals with hearing impairments who may have difficulty hearing the audio portion of a video.

Unlike closed captioning, which includes non-speech elements like sound effects and music descriptions, subtitles focus solely on spoken words. Subtitles can be created manually or through automated software and can be either burned into the video as open captions or offered as a separate text file, such as an SRT file, that can be enabled or disabled by the viewer.

Subtitles are commonly seen in foreign films or television shows that have been translated into another language, and they are also frequently used on streaming services like Netflix and YouTube to provide accessibility to a global audience.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have regulations in place that require the use of subtitles or closed captioning in certain situations to provide equal access to video content for hard-of-hearing viewers. Additionally, live captioning services are available for events like webinars and conferences to ensure real-time accessibility for participants.

Why use closed captions?

Closed captioning is essential for making video content accessible to people with hearing disabilities. Without captions, these individuals are unable to enjoy the full experience of video content, including dialogue, music, and sound effects. Closed captions are synchronized with the audio and provide a text description of what is being said and heard in the video, making it easy for viewers to follow along. Subtitles, on the other hand, only display the spoken dialogue and do not include other audio cues. As a result, closed captions are a more inclusive and effective solution for video accessibility.

Another reason to use closed captions is to improve video engagement and retention. Studies have shown that videos with captions have higher engagement rates and are more likely to be watched to completion. This is because captions help viewers focus on the content and follow along with the dialogue, even in noisy or distracting environments. By setting captions, creators can ensure that their videos are engaging and accessible to a wider audience.

In addition to accessibility and engagement, closed captions can also improve the searchability and discoverability of video content. Closed captions can include essential keywords and phrases that make the video easier to find in search results. This can be particularly important for businesses and creators who rely on video content to drive traffic to their websites or social media pages. By adding captions to their YouTube videos or LinkedIn posts, creators can expand their reach and connect with a larger audience.

Closed captions are an essential tool for improving video accessibility, engagement, and searchability. By using high-quality captioning and speech recognition tools, creators can ensure that their video content is inclusive and engaging for all viewers, regardless of hearing ability or language proficiency.

Why use subtitles?

Subtitles are a vital tool for improving video accessibility and reaching a wider audience. By adding subtitles to videos, creators can make their content more inclusive for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, or for those who prefer to watch videos with the sound turned off. Subtitles can also improve language learning and comprehension, and make videos more accessible to viewers from different cultures and regions.

One of the most significant benefits of using subtitles in videos is that they improve viewer engagement and comprehension. Viewers are more likely to watch a video to completion when it includes subtitles, as they help to convey the dialogue more effectively and ensure that viewers can follow along with the content. Subtitles also help to clarify complex concepts or technical terminology, which can be particularly useful in educational or instructional videos.

Like captions, subtitles can also be used to increase the searchability and discoverability of video content. When subtitles are added to a video, the text is indexed by search engines, making it easier for viewers to find the video and improving its SEO ranking.

Finally, subtitles can be used to improve the overall quality of video content. By adding subtitles, creators can ensure that their content is accessible and understandable to viewers from different backgrounds and cultures. This can help to create a more diverse and inclusive community of viewers, and foster a sense of belonging and connection among viewers from different regions and language groups.


The differences between closed captions and subtitles are important to understand when creating video content. Closed captions are specifically designed for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, while subtitles can be used for language translation or to enhance comprehension for all viewers. Both closed captions and subtitles are essential tools for creating accessible and engaging video content that reaches a broader audience.

For those in need of subtitling and captioning services, Simon Says provides efficient and accurate solutions for businesses, educators, and creators. Our cutting-edge speech recognition and AI-powered tools allow for quick and reliable transcription and captioning in multiple languages. Simon Says' services can be used to create closed captions for training videos or subtitles for international audiences.

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