Ten Tips for Travelling as a Hard of Hearing Individual

So you’ve decided that you want to travel and explore the world. Perhaps, you’ve even booked a ticket, and now you’re panicking. What do I do? What do I bring?

And most importantly–How do I make it through everything?

Take a breath. That’s what I’m here for–I’ve been doing this for a very long time, and I’ve traveled solo, and with groups.

1. Make sure you pack the essentials…for your hearing.

This is seriously the most important piece of information for your trip. In your carry-on bag, whichever one you’re going to have easily accessible throughout your flight/bus/train, bring your hearing aids, a de-humidifier or case (where you store your hearing aids when not in use), batteries (more than one set in case you lose them!!), and a cleaning kit.

If you have a microphone that you wear, make sure you bring whatever you need for it to function, which includes a charger and an electric converter (especially if you’re going overseas).

Also make sure that these are easily accessible while you’re walking around town.

2. Sign up for text or email alerts

Whenever and wherever you can, sign up for alerts via text or email. Many places now have these options to let you know what’s going on and where you must go. The most important places where you should sign up for alerts are places where you go for transit–airports, with airlines, trains and buses. Having these alerts help you stay aware and up to date about any gate changes and delays.

Of course, if you are a bit on the concerned side, always check out the screens with departures and arrivals.

3. At the Airport/ Train Station/ Bus Station

If you can, check in online or through your airline/ train app aside from signing up for text or email. This will allow you to by-pass the waiting line for check-in, straight to baggage drop-off and/or the line to the gate, track or stop.

Now this is where it gets tricky–I’m not going to lie. Not every station or airports have easily accessible screens that tell you what is leaving and arriving and from which gate or track. You are going to be one-hundred percent alone in this.

Usually airports have screens with departure information right after TSA/ security. Trains and bus stations may only have it in one location that you will have to find. Sometimes, they will have apps that you can download that allows you to check the information. Do your research ahead of time and see if you can find those apps before you get to your departure location.

If not, check the screen upon arrival, and periodically check it throughout your wait. So that means that if you have to walk a distance to those screens, that’s what you will have to do.

4. On the plane/ bus/ train

Once you get on the plane, make sure that you put your luggage away, and keep your hearing aid items handy because you want to make sure that you take your hearing aids off before take-off. It will get too loud on the flight, and could be potentially further damaging to your hearing. Last thing you want to do is get tinnitus from the humming of the engine.

Instead, once on the plane, while everyone is still boarding, find the closest flight attendant to you and let them know you’re hard of hearing. Ask them if it would be possible to see the menu for the flight, so that you know ahead of time what you want, instead of fumbling around when the time comes, hoping against all hope that they have that chicken or pasta dish because you’re not sure what it is that they’re saying.

Do make sure you listen to the procedures that the flight attendants give at the front of the plane (even better if it’s closed captioned on the screen), and make sure to read the safety brochure.

Also, if you do end up sitting by the emergency exit, you might want to re-consider sitting there despite the extra legroom, because in case of an emergency you will be required to help out the flight attendants and follow instructions. Ultimately airlines do restrict the booking of the exit row to someone who is able-bodied, willing to to perform emergency actions, over 15 years of age, speaks the same language, and can follow instructions.

Bus and trains are a bit different as they don’t usually have attendants checking in on you often. Rather, the driver or the train conductor will check your tickets, and leave you alone. By all means, do take off your hearing aids once you get into your seat, so that you don’t have to be overwhelmed and/or exhausted by the sound all around you. Keep in mind two things:

  • If you’re afraid of missing your stop, use your phone’s map and have it track you as the train and/or bus moves. That way you won’t miss your stop because you’ll know where you are and can look ahead to see what’s the next stop.
  • If you know that you’re supposed to arrive somewhere by a certain time, and are worried about falling asleep, set an alarm to half an hour before your arrival.

5. Get up EARLY.

I know, I know. No one loves waking up early on vacation.

But for hard of hearing individuals such as ourselves, sound can be overwhelming because our brains are working hard to filter the useless sounds so that we can focus on hearing the sounds that we need, that we find important. In the end, we crawl into bed super-exhausted, mentally and physically (it is both a mental and physical effort!).

So the best time to see a city without the anxiety and exhaustion inducing experience of dealing with overwhelming noise, is to get up early. 7am through 10 am are usually good times to go out either during the weekends or the weekdays. The earlier the better, of course.

This also applies about going to museums. If you go early to a museum, right at the time it opens up, it is usually much quieter.

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6. Go out LATE.

Evenings are also great times to walk around the city (unless you are visiting a place that is a perpetual party town) because most people are going to be home. It gives you a different vibe of the city, seeing it after the sun has set, and you get to forgo all the noise that would normally tire you out quickly.

Likewise, going to the museum the hour before it closes can also be a good experience, because most people have left and the museum is much quieter.

7. Pay Attention to your surroundings and blend in.

It’s not easy to blend in with the crowd, when you’re different. But in travel, that’s the best time to do so. And most importantly, pay attention to your surrounding. I know you know this because that’s how our life works. We’re ever vigilant. So continue to be so. Use your other super-power senses and watch.

8. Ask for Help.

Don’t be afraid to ask the attendant, the guide or the person nearest to you for help. You’d be surprised how often strangers are willing to help you out. In the case that they don’t want to help you or are rude, move on and ask someone else.

9. Let Hotel Staff Know of your Hearing Loss.

This is especially true if you are travelling alone or travelling in a group of all hard of hearing and Deaf individuals. Let the hotel staff know that you are HoH/Deaf because that way, they will be able to keep you abreast of any emergencies and situations, if necessary.

10. Make the notepad app on your phone your BFF.

In certain cases, knowing your way around the app will be useful so that you can communicate with other people, especially in loud areas where you may be unable to hear over the noise.

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