It’s summertime, and that means vacation—and oftentimes, airports. No one enjoys going to the airport, but it can be exponentially more frustrating when you have hearing loss. Airport announcements are often made over a loudspeaker, and even mild hearing loss can severely impact your ability to hear an important message. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take as a passenger to minimize your frustration at airports, and there are even laws that can help you get necessary information before your flight takes off.
ADA Hearing Loss Laws
The Americans with Disabilities Act has legal provisions that address the difficulty of hearing in airports, and cites telephone services and videotext displays as the most important auxiliary hearing aids that airports must provide. Airport televisions are required to display captioning at all times, and if the airport provides coin-operated telephones they will also have text telephones for passengers with hearing loss. In order to ensure that no one will miss important announcements, terminals are also required to broadcast announcements via visual systems, like video monitors. Airports are legally obligated to offer accessible communication to the deaf and hard of hearing, but you must identify yourself to airline personnel.
Be Your Own Advocate
The person who can help you the most to navigate the confusing airports is you! Like we mentioned above, it’s important to tell the airline about your hearing loss, in order to take advantage of any assistive devices the airport might offer. Start with the employee checking your bags—they should be able to direct you to the appropriate personnel. Also, do not remove your hearing aids when going through the security check—it is not required, and keeping your hearing aids in will reduce your risk of missing important information. You can also keep hearing aids and cochlear implants on during the entire flight, even when the flight attendants ask for passengers to turn off all electronic devices.
Many people with hearing loss find that the most exasperating part of flying is waiting at the gate. Gate attendants announce boarding groups over a loudspeaker that you may not be able to hear. Some airports have installed LED boards at the gate that specify which group is boarding, so look around for those. Many airports also have induction loops, so if your hearing aid has telecoils, take advantage of these system!
One of the easiest and most effective ways to ensure that you board with the correct group, however, is to speak with the gate attendant. Let them know you will not be able to hear any announcement made over a PA system, and request that they signal you when it is your time to board. This is a tried and true method from people with hearing loss, and often the gate attendants will even let you board early.
If you’re traveling alone, it is especially important that you tell airline personnel about your hearing loss. It is also a good idea to let your seat partner and flight attendants know, just in case of an emergency—if there are important announcements, they can alert you. Traveling with hearing loss doesn’t have to be difficult or frustrating, you just have to take a few extra steps, and soon you’ll be on your way to a great vacation!
By: Elena McPhillips