Ready to Travel Again? Tips for Those with Hearing Loss

Nina Malkin

Guest Author

Whether it’s the lure of the open road, a dream vacation long deferred, or simply a yen to visit loved ones in another part of the country, more of us are looking forward to travel as the pandemic ends. If you’re hard of hearing or deaf, channel your spirit of adventure and get planning. These tips for ideal destinations, accommodations, and of course communication will smooth the path ahead.

Accept the uncertainty

Despite progress with vaccines, the pandemic continues to alter how everyone travels, so we all have to be adaptable. For example, Italy has long been an ideal destination for the hard of hearing, given its ample and affordable one-on-one tours, which can ease communication. However, as of April 2021, the country is sadly still in a state of emergency due to high COVID-19 numbers and tourism from any country, including the U.S., is banned. It may take some time before we can all travel to those places at the top of our list.

Be book smart

When planning your trip, choose hearing-accessible hotels equipped with closed-captioned television, accessibility kits, and visual alerting devices for an effortless stay. And do shop around; you may be rewarded with an amazing bargain on a hotel room right now. “During economic downturns, it normally takes hotel rates twice as long to recover to pre-downturn levels as it took them to fall to their lowest point,”  Robert Cole, a senior research analyst specializing in lodging and leisure travel for research firm Phocuswright, told Travel & Leisure.

Get looped in

Many amazing attractions—including the Bronx Zoo in New York City and the Getty Center in Los Angeles—as well as airports and ticket booths now use loop technology. If your hearing aids have telecoils, you can use the Loop Finder app to hear more clearly in noisy surroundings. Look for the Loop America symbol at venues nationwide or find state by state locations on this map.

Getty Center in Los Angeles

The Getty Center in Los Angeles is equipped with hearing loop technology. The Center is temporarily closed, and reopens in May.

Be your own best advocate

Travelers of all kinds often gripe about language barriers, but those with hearing loss may deal with this daily, anywhere! When you’re out of town, it’s more important than ever to be upfront about your needs. Inform representatives at airline terminals, bus depots, and train stations that you require direct, in-person communication about delays and boarding—and sit close to the check-in desk at the gate. Similarly, clue in the flight attendants so they can communicate in-flight info. Introduce yourself to concierges, park rangers, receptionists, and other folks who work where you are staying—it’s their job to be your ally.

Pack smart

There are certain accessories no hearing-impaired traveler should leave home without. First and foremost, all the supplies that keep hearing gear functioning smoothly, including backup batteries and tubing, chargers, and remotes. If flying, tote this gear in a carry-on bag rather than luggage, which could get lost. While away, store hearing aids when not in use in a watertight bag (especially if adventuring outdoors) or a portable safe – small, lightweight devices that can lock onto a lounge chair, railing, or other large item to prevent loss. A vibrating alarm can keep you on schedule, and a portable visual alert system is a good idea if your motel or rental unit isn’t equipped. Also, since visual cues are so important, pack a small but powerful flashlight – sometimes the light of your phone just isn’t good enough for map reading and the like.

Head outdoors

Camping is one of the safer ways to adventure in these times since you and your pod can be outdoors and socially distant from others. The National Park Service has a strong commitment to both safety and accessibility at its facilities. Make a reservation at a campground where campsites are spaced far apart, and check out this blog post by “professional nomad” Jaime Del Pizzo to find camping inspiration and ideas.

Consider a cruise in the not-too-distant future

Cruising has long been hearing-loss-friendly, via numerous accessibility options and features. While the CDC issued no-sail order for cruises until November 1, 2021, a phased approach to restarting passenger cruises is in the works. Next winter may seem like a long time to wait for a well-earned getaway, but keep in mind that vacation anticipation can be a pleasure in itself. “The mere act of researching and planning a trip can make you happier,” psychiatrist Jeff Ditzell told USA Today: “By giving you something to look forward to, it triggers an influx of dopamine in the brain, which increases happiness.” So right now is a great time to begin browsing for your next getaway.