Text-to-speech (TTS) applications aid to render digital content into speech. In an instance, when the reader highlights a sentence, it is translated into spoken word. Try it! Select something on this article and listen to it. Whatever TTS features the website has enabled or your device has installed, the basic fundamental remains the same. This is to enable auditory consumption of the digital content.
There are different reasons that may contribute to the use of TTS. Aside from the obvious applications of TTS in assisting people with visual impairment and those that have difficulty reading, some consider it useful in reducing eye strain, learning a foreign language, multi-tasking, and exercising listening skills.
If you are one of those people who prefer to read the text with TTS in the background, you are not alone. A lot of studies proved that listening improves cognitive functions and information retention. Listening helps develop “focus” and is considered to be a key skill in an effective understanding of study materials.
Rebecca Mcinroy, co-creator, host, and executive producer for Views and Brews, wrote, “when you read something, you are looking at symbols on a page, and your brain is busy filling in all the blanks. Like the sounds of the voices, the scene, the inflection, the deeper meaning, the plot, etc. When you’re listening to something, a lot of those spaces are filled for you, and when you in turn watch something, even more things are put together for your brain. What does this mean? Basically, the memories you form differ based on the way you consume information.”
Dr. Art Markman, a professor at the University of Texas, conducted an experiment that shows people tend to correlate a deeper sense of meaning when listening, while in reading, the brain tends to pick out the literal elements of the text and associate other similar elements. A different study concluded that students were able to summarize a short story from listening, with the same accuracy as those who read the text.
There is really no better or worse method of consuming information. People are different and our brains are not necessarily wired the same. Some people prefer to read the text for more technical subjects and listen to audio books for recreation. While some, might prefer it differently. This will also be very different for those who read or listen in a crowded setting or when the brain is preoccupied with other things. It is also important to note that some writers find it effective to proofread using TTS as the ear catches errors that are not obvious to the eyes.
The benefit of having TTS enabled in websites is that you are offering your visitors the option to both read and listen (or if they choose to or prefer it to purely listen to the content in addition to the option of exclusively reading the material).
Interested in adding TTS to your app or website? Try ResponsiveVoice.
Read more: “Why ‘Reading’ Audiobooks Isn’t a Shortcut: Listening vs. Reading, and Your Brain” by Rebecca Mcinroy