Travel is an important part of our lives. Whether for business or vacation, traveling can be as stressful as it is enjoyable, and for more than 20 million people in the S. with hearing loss, travel can be especially difficult. There are many things that hearing-impaired people can do to help make their travels safe, comfortable, and enjoyable. Don’t avoid travelling because of hearing loss. Planning ahead and informing your fellow travelers, transportation hosts, and hotel clerks that you are hearing-impaired are a few suggestions to help your trip run smoothly. Lastly, obtain any necessary devices—and enjoy yourself!
Common Travel Problems for the Hearing Impaired
- Inability to hear or understand airline boarding and in-flight announcements
- Difficulty making reservations
- Inability to hear hotel room telephones, someone knocking on the door, or warning signals such as smoke alarms
- Difficulty using public telephones, hotel phones, cell phones, etc.
- Inability to hear or understand scheduled events such as planned activities, tours, museum lectures, and live performances
- Lack of oral and/or sign language interpreters
- Lack of accommodations for hearing dogs
- Try to make all travel arrangements in advance. Once transportation arrangements have been made, request written confirmation to ensure that information is correct. Always inform the ticket representative that you are hearing-impaired.
- If possible, meet with a travel agent to allow the opportunity for lip reading, or if necessary, written exchange to help confirm travel plans. Agents can contact airlines, hotels, and attractions to make necessary reservations.
- Travel information and reservation services are also available on the internet. Be sure to print copies of important information such as confirmation numbers, reservations, and maps. Keep copies of travel arrangements, including confirmation numbers, easily available.
- Arrive early at the airport, bus terminal, or train station. Tell the agent at the boarding gate that you are hearing-impaired and need to be notified in person when it’s time to board. Check the display board repeatedly while waiting in the terminal to confirm your flight destination and departure time as there may be delays or the departure gate may change. Confirm the flight number and destination before boarding.
- Inform the flight attendant that you are hearing-impaired and request that any in-flight announcements be communicated to you in person. Consider reserving aisle seats so that you may easily communicate with the flight staff.
- Carry printed copies of lodging reservations, dates, and prices. Inform the receptionist at the front desk that you are hearing-impaired. This is very important in case of emergency.
- Certain major hotel chains now provide visual alerting devices to help the hearing-impaired traveler recognize the ring of the telephone, a knock on the door, or a fire/emergency alarm. Contact the hotel in advance to make the necessary arrangements.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help from fellow travelers—most are more than willing to offer assistance.
Hearing Aids and Travel
If you wear a hearing aid, be sure to pack extra batteries and tubing. These may be difficult to obtain in some places. Strongly consider taking a dehumidifier for drying your hearing aids each night to prevent moisture problems, especially if your destination has a warm, humid climate.
To prevent loss, keep your hearing aids in your carry-on luggage. Keep an extra set of batteries in a separate piece of luggage to prevent total loss of hearing aid use.
In most cases, hearing aids worn on the ears will not set off of the alarms during security screening at airports. Keeping the hearing aids on will allow you to communicate with the security officers during screening, if necessary. It is okay to ask a security officer if it would be advisable to take your hearing aids off; however, body worn hearing aids and personal listening devices may contain enough metal parts that they should be packed in your carry-on bag. The security scanner will not harm your hearing aids or other related devices.
- Most major airlines and transportation companies have Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) services to assist passengers.
- Hand-held personal communication devices (e.g., cellular phones and smartphones) provide the ability to send and receive text messages without the need to access public resources. Smartphones often have applications for traveling. Such programs or email programs can store reservation information. Applications offer real-time alerts for changes in flight plans, and have maps that can provide directions.
- FM listening systems can provide direct amplification in large areas using radio frequency. They can help the hearing-impaired traveler listen to lectures, tours, etc., by simply having the speaker use a transmitter microphone, broadcasting the presentation over the radio waves to the receiver.
- Portable wake-up alarms can be used to flash a light or vibrate a bed or pillow. A cellular phone can also work as a vibrating alarm.