Travel Tips for Those with Hearing Loss

Will you be traveling this summer by plane? Here are a few tips to ensure you can hear all the important travel instructions at the airport. These tips could help make your trip safer and more enjoyable.

Planning a summer getaway? If so, you wouldn’t dream of leaving your sunglasses, sunscreen, swimsuit or passport behind. But if you have hearing loss, you have more to add to your packing list than your normal-hearing counterparts. Why?

Hearing loss presents special communication challenges when moving about in a busy, bustling airport, especially at the height of tourist season.

After all, you don’t want to miss a connecting flight or the call to board your plane because you didn’t hear the instructions. That’s why you should be aware of an important regulation that can help you have a smoother travel experience.

This regulation is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), a 1986 law making it illegal for airlines to discriminate against passengers because of their disability.

One of its provisions is that anyone self-identifying as a passenger with a disability, who needs additional time or assistance, must be allowed to board the airplane before other passengers. Hearing loss is considered a disability under the ACAA, just as it is for the ADA.

By disclosing your hearing loss as a disability, airline agents are responsible for providing accommodations, including preboarding. If an issue comes up, such as a gate change, they can help the individual find the new gate and preboard from there.

In addition, if you self-identify as having hearing loss, the gate agents can inform you of assistive technology available in the airport, such as hearing loops. Hearing loops can feed sound directly into a person’s hearing aid or cochlear implant. Most modern hearing aids are equipped with a telecoil and most airports have hearing loops.

Also available are speech-to-text apps on a cellphone or tablets provided at the gate which can alert the individual to important flight updates.

Plan ahead

To take advantage of the ACAA, be sure to take these actions when planning your next trip on an airline:

  • When ordering your ticket, identify yourself as someone with hearing loss.
  • If traveling with a service animal, complete and submit all paperwork in advance.
  • Review the online accessibility policies of the airports you’re using—departure, destination, and any connection. Find out which accommodations are available and where.
  • Confirm your accessibility needs with all airlines involved in your journey.
  • Check your flight status before arriving at the airport.
  • Check into your flight and arrive at the airport as early as possible to allow time to check any baggage, go through the security screening, and board the plane.
  • Be alert to gate and flight time changes and notify airline personnel of your need to move to a different gate, if necessary.
  • At the airport, self-identify at every point of contact as having hearing loss; in particular, ensure that gate agents are aware that you may not be able to hear announcements and require preboarding.
  • Familiarize yourself with Aviation Consumer Protection materials for travelers with disabilities from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the new Airline Passengers Disability Bill of Rights.
  • Report any disability-related air travel issues to the U.S. DOT and/or to the airline.

Other travel tips for hearing aid wearers:

  • If your hearing aids use traditional hearing aid batteries, be sure to take plenty of extras. Devices with Bluetooth and streaming capabilities use batteries at a faster rate and may need to be replaced more often.
  • If your hearing aids are rechargeable, don’t forget the charger! Most rechargeable hearing aids only hold a charge for 12 to 24 hours, depending on the level of use.
  • Be sure to take any appropriate charging cords or power converters if traveling internationally.
  • If you have problems with ear pain or your ears popping during air travel, take along over-the-counter devices such as Ear Planes. These devices can help equalize the pressure in your ears and make flying more comfortable.
  • Keep track of your hearing aids at all times. When your hearing aids aren’t in your ears, keep them in a well-marked container so if you forget them, room service can hold them for you.
  • If your trip involves a water adventure, take your hearing aids out and leave them in a safe place. Hearing aids AREN’T waterproof and even a dip in the pool could damage the sophisticated electronics inside.

If it’s been a while since your last hearing check-up, schedule an appointment before your trip with a doctoral-level audiologist who can be sure your hearing aids are working well. We want you to hear your best no matter where your travels take you!