7 advantages of traveling with hearing loss
Having traveled over the last few months, I’ve actually realized there are several advantages of traveling with hearing loss. I didn’t realize there were advantages or accepted them until I spent an extensive amount of time away from my comfort zone.
Many times I considered these ‘perks’ as just one more thing that made me stand out, but I’ve recently had this epiphany that I should take pride in these advantages, even if I don’t necessarily need them. As people with hearing loss living in a predominantly hearing world, we already have so many battles to deal with, we deserve to reap the benefits of our uniqueness. So, without further ado, here’s a brief breakdown of some of my personal favorite perks of traveling with hearing loss.
1) Being able to sleep anywhere, anytime
This is probably the one advantage my hearing travel companions are most jealous of. For instance, our apartments in Buenos Aires are next to a nightclub, and the Argentinians like to party until nearly 7am. I’m able to get a sound night’s sleep after turning my ears off. The others in my building, not so much!
2) Priority boarding
I never knew this was something I had an option to use until just a few months ago! I decided to put this to the test when I was just feeling lazy and worried that I would not get a spot in the overhead cabin to put my carry on. Normally, you should let the airline know of any requests or assistance you may need during booking, but I’ve just asked for priority boarding at the gate. So far it hasn’t been an issue. I just let the person at the gate know that I’m hard of hearing, and voila! They let me cut the line. I don’t do this often as I have a guilty conscience, but it’s nice to know I have the option. Plus, it really comes in handy as we can sometimes miss the last call or any announcement for that matter.
3) Having patience when communicating
I’ve touched on this in a previous article, but I still think it’s worth repeating. I’ve found people are usually more drawn to people who are patient and understanding than those who are not.
Those of us in the hard of hearing world are often misunderstood. Due to frequent misunderstandings, I believe we have way more compassion when it comes to traveling and the communication barriers that come with it. We already consistently have to find alternative ways to get our messages across, so it’s not another barrier for us to overcome like it can be for our hearing counterparts. For instance, in Taipei, I remember trying to chat with this one lady who worked in the “7-11.” She only knew one phrase in English, “how are you?” I would answer and ask the same question back. Most often she didn’t know what I was saying. Regardless, we would laugh at our inability to understand one another. From that first day, she always smiled at me when I walked through the door! Not even people she could communicate with received the same affection. A simple act of compassion and understanding can go a long way.
“Due to frequent misunderstandings, I believe we have way more compassion when it comes to traveling and the communication barriers that come with it.”
4) Easily pass by street vendors and sellers
This is probably the one I’ve learned to love most and the one I take full advantage of. There are always those people on the streets that are trying to sell you something, and many times they won’t stop until you cave. I know they mean well, but I just don’t like being harassed to buy something. Normally I just completely ignore them or I’ll point at my hearing aids and signal something along the lines of “I can’t hear you.” It helps here if you can use sign language. Most of the times, they back off. Occasionally, you’ll run into a few that remain persistent. Just continue walking!
5) Having a legitimate excuse if you missed details
There are many times when traveling where details can be missed, whether it is at the airport, the hotel, or in the taxicab. People can get upset and frustrated when this happens, but we have a legitimate excuse for missing details. Sometimes I play this card too much when I’m just not paying attention at all. Whoops! But usually, when I am paying attention and actually missed an explanation of something, I’ll let the person speaking know that I’m hard of hearing. They comply genuinely; sometimes too much, but I will never turn down someone escorting me somewhere. Makes me feel way fancier than I actually am!
6) Lipreading to join into a new conversation
I’ve found lip reading, a skill I’ve acquired thanks to my hearing loss, to be a particularly useful skill while traveling. Lipreading can be useful if I want to join in on a conversation or if I am just feeling depleted of devoting energy to a conversation. I’ve mastered the art of being indirectly involved in a conversation between people on the opposite side of the room. It’s an all-around win if you ask me. I get the juicy details of a conversation without having to contribute verbally.
7) Using your phone to communicate without offending anyone
We live in a technologically driven era, but there are still some countries where being on your phone incessantly is considered rude. Since many of us use our phones as a way to communicate with those in front of us (by typing our asks into the phone and showing it to them because we many not be able to engage verbally), we have a slight leg up on this ‘rule’. I personally don’t like abusing this advantage because I like taking in what’s around me, but I do like knowing I can find solace in my phone if I don’t feel like engaging.
While there are many things we have to take into consideration when traveling, there are many perks to traveling with hearing loss. I’m only just getting started in learning these advantages, and I know there are many more to come as I continue to adapt to life on the road!
What advantages have you found when traveling with hearing loss? Let us know in the comments.
She plays soccer for the USA Women's National Deaf Team. She's currently traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and perspective while also learning about the deaf and hard of hearing communities in various countries. Her travels can be followed on instagram @ashley5chanel or on her blog deaftattooedandemployed.com.
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