Traveling Successfully with Hearing Loss Takes Some Forward Planning

traveling with hearing loss
Shari Eberts
May 23, 2024

I love traveling! It’s always a thrill to learn about other cultures, discover new foods, and experience a different slice of life from my every day. While exciting, traveling can also be stressful. What do I pack? What if the food doesn’t agree with me? How will I navigate unfamiliar transit systems? 

People with hearing loss have additional concerns. Will museums and attractions be accessible? What if my devices break? How will I decipher all the unfamiliar accents? 

Despite the challenges, traveling with hearing loss can be a lot of fun. Here are some tips for your next adventure.  

Tips for Traveling with Hearing Loss

1. Prep before you travel

The more you know about your destination, the easier it will be to enjoy it. Familiarize yourself with the names of places, important historical figures, and key vocabulary in the local language. This will make it easier to understand these terms when you hear them. 

When booking hotels, request accommodations ahead of time. Many hotels provide flashing lights for phone calls or when the doorbell rings. Reconfirm their availability when you check-in. If traveling with a tour company let them know about your needs well in advance so they can include them in their plans. 

Tourist attractions in large cities often provide assistive listening systems and/or captions on site. Research what is available and make requests well in advance. Sometimes, venues have disability coordinators listed on their websites. Send an email to plan for your upcoming visit.

2. Use technology to smooth the journey

When traveling by plane, train, or bus, download all relevant apps onto your smartphone before you go. Most apps provide timetables and will notify you if scheduled transportation is delayed, canceled, or if there is a gate change. Alert check-in personnel about your hearing loss so they can alert you to any important announcements. They may even let you board early!  

Use assistive listening devices like pocket talkers or remote microphones to bring a tour guide’s voice directly into your devices. Many tour companies utilize a similar system for all participants. Understand the options beforehand so it will be easier to connect their system to your devices. You may need an additional interface. 

3. Advocate for your needs

Hearing loss is invisible, so tour guides and fellow travelers won’t know you are struggling unless you point it out. Let others know about your hearing loss and provide specific suggestions for ways they can help improve communication. Let guides know you would like to be seated up front to aid with lipreading. Other suggestions include getting your attention before speaking to you, facing you and keeping their mouth uncovered, and asking people to speak one at a time. 

It is easy for people to slip back into old patterns of speech, so don’t be shy about reminding others of your needs. Holding your hand behind your ear gets the idea across without disrupting the flow of dialogue. 

Request all logistical information in written form. Carry a notebook and pen in your bag to make that an easy process.

4. Pack wisely

Our devices won’t work without power so bring a generous supply of batteries. Replacement batteries may be hard to find in unfamiliar locations. Keep extras in different travel bags in case one gets misplaced. Test your chargers before traveling and bring extras if available.

Traveling can also be loud! Protect your hearing while traveling with earplugs and noise-canceling headphones to wear on the plane or in other loud situations. Bring extras to share with your traveling companions.

vacation with hearing loss

5. Have a backup plan

Having your hearing aids break can be troubling at any time, but when you are far away from home and your hearing care professional (HCP) it can feel like a disaster. Bring an old set of aids or perhaps an over-the-counter variety to use if problems arise. Connecting a high-quality headset to your smartphone and using the phone’s microphone as a listening device can also work in a pinch. 

You may also want to bring the ID numbers for your devices as well as your HCP’s contact information in case you need to be in touch. 

Safe Travels Ahead

I recently returned from Peru and have plans to visit Hawaii and London this summer as well as attend HLAA’s convention in Phoenix. Where will you travel next? 

For more tips on traveling with hearing loss, refer to the Hearing Hacks section of Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss


Shari Eberts

Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss, (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. Connect with Shari: BlogFacebookLinkedInTwitter.

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