How To Find Hearing Loss Friendly Service Providers

My family and I recently traveled overseas to mark an important family milestone. It was an amazing trip with many historical sites to see, a beautiful countryside to experience, and a special family event to observe. It was a once in a lifetime trip, so we decided to splurge on a private guide. But it was critical that we find the right one. I didn’t want to miss one word because of my hearing loss.

I decided not to leave anything to chance, but invested significant time upfront, detailing my communication needs to the tour company as well as to the tour guide they recommended. This involved several phone calls, numerous follow-up email reminders and a video chat with our prospective tour guide, but it was worth the effort. I found the right tour guide for my needs making the trip more enjoyable for my entire family.

This experience reminded me how important finding the right service provider is for people with hearing loss – someone with the proper attitude, but also with the right manner of speaking for your particular hearing loss. My hearing loss is most severe in the mid-range frequencies, so female voices are often easier for me to hear. Your hearing loss may require a different voice profile.

Below I share the steps I took in finding the right tour guide for my family’s trip, but these steps could be followed when hiring any service provider including a lawyer, a financial advisor, a doctor, a yoga teacher, and even an audiologist. Please share your tricks of the trade in the comments.

1. Be as specific as possible about your needs upfront: In my initial inquiries I mentioned my hearing loss and asked what accommodations could be made for this. It was very telling to see how each of the tour companies reacted to this request. I was also very specific as to the type of guide I wanted — someone with a naturally loud speaking voice (people never remember to adjust their volume after the first few minutes), a minimal accent, and no facial hair.

2. Take a test drive: I had a conversation with our assigned guide via Skype before things were finalized. I wanted to experience how well I could hear him and to see (via video) how easy he would be to lip-read. I also wanted to assess his attitude about my hearing loss. Would he try to be helpful or find it annoying? I was very impressed. In our call, he listed a number of suggestions that he thought would help me hear well during the trip, including my sitting in the passenger seat of the van.

3. Start off on the right foot with a reminder: On our first morning of touring, I reminded the guide about my hearing loss and was happy to see that he had already cleared out the spot in the passenger seat for me to sit.

4. Provide real-time feedback, both positive and negative: I was so happy on the first day with how well I was hearing that I made a point to mention this to the guide. I complimented him on how clearly he was speaking and he was pleased, which motivated him to continue with his efforts.

5. Continue to self-advocate along the way: Whenever we visited a site with a film, I asked if it was available captioned, and if I missed something, I asked for a quick summary from my guide. This saved my family the task, which decreased the burden on them. Plus they all probably benefited from hearing the information again.

6. Confirm important details by email or text: Even though I was hearing well, I didn’t want to risk mishearing important details so I asked the guide to confirm all reservations and other appointment times with me via email or text.

While finding the right tour guide for our trip required an upfront investment of time, it allowed me to weed out service providers that were not sensitive to my needs and provided a strong backdrop for the success of the trip. It worked so well that I plan to use this same process anytime I need to hire a service provider again.

Readers, do you search for service providers that work well with your hearing loss?

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13 thoughts on “How To Find Hearing Loss Friendly Service Providers

  1. Thanks Shari. Your first hand experience illustrates once again how important it is to advocate for one’s self. I don’t foresee this ever changing. Perhaps it will get better, but the problem will have to be re-addressed many times over a lifetime. Just as the wheelchair bound individual must constantly seek out the ramp, the hearing disabled individual must always seek out hearing assistance and sympathetic servers, guides and others whose message we need to understand.

    I confess to placing great hope in my cochlear implant 11 days ago. So many on the Hearing journal forum on the website offer positive and encouraging comments. Realistically, i think it will be better but not magical. My activation date is the 9th of June. We’ll surely see. I don’t think there is a device out there yet that will relieve us of the need to advocate for our needs. Thank you for your example. It is a valuable component in the quest for wider knowledge and understanding. It sounds like you and your family had a great time.

    • Hi! Good luck with your implant. I have had one for 18 months and still adjusting, though it is much better than the hearing aides I still need special assistance and be ready to advocate for myself. Getting ready to have another sleep study done and going to use the tips from this blog when I schedule. Making sure they meet my needs to hear the instructions over the speakers and once I go to sleep I will be deaf and they will need to address that with a touch on the shoulder as not a call over the speaker. I am sure all will be well.

  2. My apologies for being TOTALLY off topic with this particular post, but I am currently watching Season 22 of Dancing with the Stars on Hulu (current season, posting a day late, and no voting). It’s coming into the finals, and I want to make sure anyone in your community who isn’t already aware can choose to watch while it is still available.

    Nyle, one of the contestants, is *totally* deaf (from birth – and from a family that is deaf) — and he is a truly *amazing* dancer! His goal is to educate hearing America about deaf culture.

    If you watch, start from week #1 and work your way forward to get the back-story – how he dances to silence and how his dance pro partner trains with him to make sure he stays in time with the music he cannot hear. If you don’t already have a Hulu membership, it is WELL worth taking the free month Hulu offers simply to watch this particular season – closed captions available.

    Due to the limits of the live-TV format, he “speaks” through an interpreter, who also signs comments FOR him so that the show moves along as “normal” – but he has not been given his place in the show; he has *earned* it. And by the way – his most recent accomplishment was winning America’s Next Top Model.

    Forgive me if you’ve already blogged about this – I’m relatively new to this site.

    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

  3. We traveled overseas last year and used a tour company that we had used in the past. I told them ahead of time that I had hearing issues – their comments were that they have no control over the tour guides they hire overseas.
    They did make the tour guide aware of my issues and I was able to hear the walking tours by using my Compilot with their Whisper microphones. But the US tour company refused to allow the tour guide to sit me up front. So for the bus tours, I missed most of it. They have mandatory seat rotation.
    Best part of all is that they make dietary accommodations but refuse to make accommodations for hearing impaired.
    Their attitude was basically take it or leave it – you signed a contract and were aware of what we don’t do when you booked the tour.
    Quite sensitive, don’t you think!

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