Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Regardless of whether you’re taking a quick business trip or an extended vacation, if you’ve got hearing loss, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. Doing so will reduce the time and effort you spend on your hearing loss. Here are a few of the essentials to help you get ready when traveling with hearing loss.
Before you go
When you make a reservation
Hotels in the US are legally required to set aside a certain number of rooms for people who are deaf or who have hearing loss. When you make your reservation, make sure to ask for a hearing-accessible room. If none are available on the dates you’re traveling, you may want to look for a different hotel.
What makes a hotel room hearing accessible? It varies, but generally ADA law requires that these types of rooms have:
- A telephone that allows guests to communicate via text or typing, such as a TTY phone and/or a phone with added amplification
- Sensors that shake the bed and/or flash a light to alert guests that someone has rung the doorbell, or is calling on the phone. These types of alerts are also required for emergencies. Alarm clocks also must provide some sort of non-auditory signal, as well.
- A TV with closed captioning
- Signage indicating assistive listening devices are available
Travel kits for the hearing impaired that include these items also are available online.
What to pack
A day or two ahead of time, make a packing list so you don’t forget any of your hearing device essentials. A checklist of the basics include:
- Hearing aid storage case/drying container
- Small hearing aid dehumidifier
- Hearing aid splash protectors or wind sleeves, if your plans include active outdoor activities, such as camping and hiking
- Adapter for your charger if you’re traveling abroad
- Extra batteries
- Cleaning kit
- Assistive listening devices
- Hearing aid accessories
Get a hearing aid tune up, if needed
Before you leave town, you may want to check in with your hearing healthcare professional. These sorts of visits are often free or require a small office visit fee. Ask them to check your hearing devices to make sure they are clean and working properly. Tell them where you are going and what types of listening environments you anticipate. Together you can determine what adjustments, if any, need to be made to your devices so you can hear effectively while you’re away from home.
Traveling by car
If you’re planning to fill up the tank and hit the highway, buckle up, of course! You won’t have to pass through security or worry about hearing last-minute gate changes, but you may have other challenges. Here are some suggestions, and be sure to check out our in-depth piece on driving with hearing loss:
- Ask your hearing healthcare professional about purchasing an assistive listening device that will improve your ability to hear conversations with fellow travelers while in the car.
- Consider purchasing an extra wide rear-view mirror so you can see more of your surroundings. Because you may not hear cars approach or honk, this is an added layer of safety.
- If you frequently take road trips with passengers, look into having an induction loop installed. This electronic device will allow you to better hear and understand your radio, cell phone and conversation from other passengers. (Induction loops are also found in some airports and travel hubs like train stations.)
- If you rely on texting or emailing for conversations, don’t compromise safety. Pull to the side of the road to send or receive these messages or ask one of your passengers to act as your reader and scribe.
Traveling by public transportation or airplane
Taking a plane, train or bus? Regardless of which mode of transportation you choose, you will likely find yourself in some pretty noisy, even chaotic, environments. Be sure to keep the following in mind:
- You do not have to remove your hearing aids when going through airport security.
- For any transportation, check relevant websites or call ahead to ask about services for those with hearing loss. Many facilities require at least two weeks’ advance notice for sign language interpretation, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time if this is a service you require.
- Some travel hubs have induction loop systems to allow people with hearing loss to hear announcements more clearly.
- Pack necessary travel documents in an easy-to-reach place.
- Sign up for travel alerts via text messaging, which can be useful if announcements are garbled.
You can learn more by reading our air travel tips for people with hearing loss.
During your trip
Hearing aid problems
If your hearing aids start giving you trouble while you’re traveling, our troubleshooting guide can help you problem-solve on the fly. If case of emergency, you also can find a local specialist in our hearing healthcare directory.
When searching for a spot for lunch, seek out food stands and cafes with outdoor seating and quiet corners. Excess noise and loud interior spaces make it difficult to hear and focus on the conversation with the ones you love. Having an eye for ear-friendly locales can cut back on the stress and mental exhaustion it takes to decipher multiple sounds at once.
If you’re traveling to a foreign country
If you’re traveling internationally where the people speak an unfamiliar language, communication is difficult enough without factoring in your hearing loss. There are a number of things you can do to facilitate communication, including:
- Downloading a translator app on your smartphone or keeping a translation dictionary in your bag
- Alerting the travel personnel ahead of time about your hearing loss, so they can help point you in the right direction when you arrive
- Seeking out translator and hearing loss services ahead of time online
Planning is key
Being your own advocate can make a huge difference in the quality of your vacation. If you take a little time to research your trip before you go, you’ll save time, feel more confident and be better equipped to enjoy the adventure.
Also, your hearing aid professional or audiologist can provide you with more tips on what to consider before traveling the open skies, rails or roads.