Hearing loss: out and about
Living with hearing loss doesn’t mean you have to give up a hobby or leisure pursuit you enjoy. And if you do decide to move on for whatever reason, see if you can find something else equally enjoyable to replace it. Here are some suggestions to help you broaden your horizons or get the most out of hobbies you already love.
As we know all too well, travelling with a disability often requires careful and creative problem solving. Lack of understanding is just one of the barriers we face as disabled travellers and companions.
This guide has been designed to provide clear direction for before, during and after travel to ensure a trouble-free trip. Knowing what to expect makes life a lot easier and less stressful.
When you travel with hearing loss, sometimes "stuff" happens! These possible glitches come from the Hearing Link website:
- Mishearing announcements on busy train stations and in airports
- Asking directions from strangers
- Missing vital information announced by the tour guide
- Trying to lip-read a foreign language, even when you know the language well!
- Sitting in crowded restaurants and attempting to enjoy conversation
- Taking your hearing aids or cochlear implants out to swim and realising that you cannot hear when the swimming pool attendant tells you to leave the water
- Going on an expensive guided tour and not understanding a word
For additional holiday pointers, visit Holidaying if you have hearing problems, offered through Hearing Link's site. ABTA, a travel association for the UK, has a helpful Accessible travel page. For a site that offers Holidays for deaf people, visit the Disabled Holiday Directory. Finally, for holidays specially designed for people with disabilities, check out Open Britain or Tourism for All.
Flying: taking to the skies
You may face some obstacles when travelling by air, especially when it comes to accessing information and communicating with airline staff members. Unfortunately, the Equality Act 2010 does not cover aircraft, which means check-in and airport services and facilities are covered, but in-flight services and entertainment are not.
As airlines disability facilities and services vary widely, it is worth doing some research before selecting an airline. Here are a few pointers to bear in mind when travelling by air:
- On booking your flight, remember to notify the airline that you are disabled and may require special assistance. A reminder 48 hours in advance of your flight is also a good idea. If you ask for assistance, make sure you have confirmation in writing (preferably on your ticket or itinerary).
- Keep in mind that airlines are allowed to move you if you wear hearing aids and are in a seat next to an emergency exit.
- Ask plenty of questions at flight check-in. Are there real-time visual information displays so you can keep on top of announcements regarding departures, arrivals, gates, boarding, delays and emergency information? Are there induction loops or textphones? Can you get special assistance and board first along with other passengers who have disabilities? Does anyone on the crew have Deaf Awareness Training or know BSL? Make sure to let the cabin crew know you have hearing loss,
- You do have a right to travel with your hearing dog, but you’ll need to follow the rules on the GOV.UK website, which can be found on the page, Pet travel: entering and returning to the UK.
For more information, check out Transport if you're disabled section of the GOV.UK site.
Grabbing the train
With the right information, planning and know-how, travelling by train can be hassle free. Let’s get on board!
To start off, it is useful to identify the barriers that might affect your journey and then consider the different options available and next steps. If you need to book passenger assistance, you should do this least 24 hours prior to your journey. Whether it is help getting on and off the train, buying tickets or finding out if there have been any important announcements, passenger assistance should have it covered. National Rail’s Information for disabled passengers page has some advice to make your train journey as pleasant as possible. For a list of other handy travel tips check out Disability Onboard—a useful resource for all things accessible when travelling by train.
If you are registered deaf or use a hearing aid, you are eligible for a Disabled Persons Railcard. At just £20 per year (as of February 2016), these cards give you ⅓ off standard, first class, off-peak and advance fares anytime for you and a companion.
Ship ahoy: holiday cruise options
If you want to venture off to exotic places but you don’t want to deal with airports or train stations, cruise ships could be a great option. You’ll be covered by EU regulations in terms of your rights as a person with hearing loss, which means you can’t be charged more or denied service; you’ll also be entitled to assistance if you need it.
Many cruises offer safety oriented kits in cabins to customers with hearing loss. Alert systems—door alarms, smoke detectors, clocks and even vibrating pillows—make sure you don’t miss any important information or activities. Amenities throughout the ship could include assisted listening devices like TTY/TDD equipment, loop systems, sign language interpreters (especially for theatre performances), and more.
As with other modes of travel, your best bet is to alert the cruise operator of your needs at least 48 hours in advance. And yes, your hearing dog is welcome to join you, as long as you follow the rules on the GOV.UK page, Pet travel: entering and returning to the UK.
Buses: back in vogue
The bus business is experiencing a boom these days, perhaps due to attractive fares and schedules. In terms of relaying information, buses have become more user-friendly with their electronic signs (displaying bus arrivals updated in real time) and text or NGT enabled information telephone lines. Hearing loops are also installed at most bus information offices.
If you have a question for the driver, don’t be afraid to ask. Many drivers are specially trained to assist hearing impaired passengers; even if you have to repeat yourself, go ahead and request help if you need it.
If you receive a state pension or are severely deaf, you may be eligible for a free bus pass—check with your local Council to find out. At the very least, you are entitled to a free off-peak pass on any bus, which allows you to travel anywhere in England between 9.30 am and 11 pm Monday to Friday and anytime at weekends. “Some local authorities also offer free bus passes to companions of disabled passengers, but this is at their discretion and something that they are not obliged to do", according to the article, "Bus Travel for Deaf or Hearing Impaired", from the Disabled Travel Advice website.
Currently, buses and trains will have priority seating for older and disabled people. All transport vehicles must accept guide dogs and assistance dogs as well.
In the future, all public transport buses will have to meet specific disability standards set by the government. As we wait patiently for this special day, we will have to make do with the current provisions.
Using public transport in London
Getting around in London by car is one thing, but using public transport is another. The good news is that there are many resources to help you tame the Tube and beat the buses.
Transport for London
In addition to all of the traditional services offered through the Transport for London (TfL) website, there is an entire section devoted to transport accessibility. For instance, did you know you could request staff assistance at all Tube, TfL Rail, Overground stations, boats, the Emirates Air Line and Victoria Coach Stations? You can get assistance from drivers on trams and buses (on DLR trains, look for a Passenger Service Agent).
TfL also offers a travel support card that you can download and use in order to let people know what assistance you may need. And for information on fares, visit the 60+ London Oyster Card section of the TfL website.
Transport for All
Transport for All (TfA) is an organisation that is working to make it just as easy for you to travel on public transport as it is for anyone else. Formerly Dial-A-Ride and Taxicard users (DaRT), TfA is a great place to find how public transport is becoming more accessible to everyone, and it covers:
- The Emirate Airline (Cable Car)
TfA also has information on getting travel training or mentoring and tracking down items that have been lost on London's transport system.
In terms of door to door services, TfA can help you research the following:
- Capital Call
- Community transport
- Patient transport
- Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle
The organisation can also help you explore the following concessionary services:
- Blue Badge
- Freedom Pass
- Disabled and Older Persons Railcard
- National Express Coachcard
- 60+ Oystercard
To find out specifically about Freedom Passes, visit the London Councils Freedom Pass website.
Entertainment, culture and leisure
When going to the cinema, the theatre or a concert, try to pre-book the best seats for watching, listening and using the hearing loop or infrared system. Ask which seats have the best coverage for the loop or infrared system when booking. Loops will be helpful in public areas like lobbies (remember to switch to the loop setting!), and infrared systems are better during the actual showing or performance.
At the movies
Almost all cinemas regularly show films that have on-screen subtitles. Subtitled screenings will be listed as ST, subtitled or captioned.
To find out if a theatre near you offers subtitle service, visit YourLocalCinema.com. You can also use the site to register for alerts regarding schedules for film releases and subtitled showings.
You can apply for the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association (CEA) card if you need support when going to the cinema. This lets you claim one free ticket for anyone accompanying you at participating cinemas. You will need to prove you receive benefits if you want to apply for the card.
At the theatre
Some theatres provide captioned performances placed near the stage, displays words at the same time as the actor speaks or sings them. In a signed performance, a sign language interpreter relays the speech and singing. The following organisations provide information on signed and captioned performances:
- Stagetext captions for theatre performances and other arts venues.
- Signed Performances In Theatre (SPIT) provides BSL interpretations at theatre performances.
- Age UK has an online guide to theatres that cater to users of digital hearing devices.
Living with hearing loss does not mean you can no longer enjoy attending concerts or listening to music. However, your experience with music might be different if you are wearing hearing aids since these devices could change the way music sounds.
If your hearing aid has an option for music (usually called a music programme), find out how you can switch it over to that setting when you’d like to use it. If you don’t have this setting, ask your audiologist if it’s possible to copy it. It may take a little bit of effort, but don’t give up!
Climbing with a sensory impairment
Because communication is an important part of safe climbing, there can be particular challenges for deaf climbers. There are, however, ways around this. You may not be able to lip read or sign when climbing, but a special code of rope tugs can enable you to keep in touch with climbing partners. The climbing centre will teach you this before you begin.
Attending a museum can be a much more enjoyable experience if you have access to BSL or can have your communication needs met in other ways. Find out if the museum offers BSL trained guides who can take you on a tour. And if you’re attending a discussion, class or another type of presentation at a museum, find out if subtitles or captioning will be offered. The National Gallery offers a BSL multimedia tour of its collection along with other services.
Jewish book club
The Jewish Deaf Association has organised a book club that meets to discuss a book chosen by the group. The environment is casual, and the discussion is designed to meet the needs of people with hearing loss. The club meets on the second Thursday of every month at 10 am and would warmly welcome more members.