Don’t Be Afraid To Travel If You Have Hearing Loss

August 3, 2018.  As summer races by, many of us are busy travelling.  When you have hearing loss, sometimes travel can be a bit challenging.  At our May meeting, two intrepid ladies shared travel tips from recent trips made to Malta and Australia, making us long to pack our suitcases and start on an adventure off the island.

Brenda Graves, who visited Malta and Sicily with her husband Stuart this spring, noted that “the close quarters, upholstery, and carpeting found on modern airplanes muffle sounds, making hearing what is being said difficult.”  Brenda, whose hearing loss includes high frequency sounds, found that the increasing number of male flight attendants, with their deeper voices, were easier to understand.  She went on to explain that “As a senior lady, I have found that female flight attendants will lean closer to be heard.

Brenda also stressed that not all activities require you to hear well, and showed us photos from a Good Friday pageant in Malta.  “It was quite the occasion!” she noted.


Good Friday pageant in Malta. (Photo courtesy of Graves family collection.)

Besides flying by plane, Brenda travelled on a ferry to Sicily, to see Mt Etna.  She explained that “Modern ferries are quiet, with minimal vibration.  Sound systems are good and the crew members are quick to repeat announcements, and escort passengers on deck during rough crossings.

She also took a bus tour, and was happy to find that “Our tour bus was modern and quiet.  Our guide spoke four languages quite clearly and loud enough to be heard, even without the sound system.

In addition to the bus tour, Brenda travelled on Hop On Hop Off buses, saying they were an excellent way to get a taste of tourist spots.”  Her advice?  “If there is a guide, try to sit on the upper level near the guide at the front.  Some buses have audio earbuds with an adjustable volume.  Do not sit on the lower level at the back of the bus, as engine noise and vibration make hearing quite difficult.


View from Hop On Hop Off bus in Malta. (Photo courtesy of Graves family collection.)

A favourite photo of her trip to Malta reinforced that travel doesn’t always require you to have perfect hearing.  “Me ankle deep in the Mediterranean Sea at St. Paul’s Bay, while back home people were ankle deep in snow!


Brenda Graves dips her toes in the Mediterranean Sea in Malta. (Photo courtesy of Graves family collection.)

We thoroughly enjoyed the presentation Brenda Graves shared with us on Malta.  She’ll be invited back after her next trip!  But, we had more enjoyment to come, with a presentation by Brenda Porter on her trip to Australia with her partner Gerry Gray.

Brenda explained that Australia was a “once in a lifetime trip” for them, and allowed them to visit Gerry’s cousin in Adelaide, as well as see many sights in this beautiful country.  Preparation was key, and she said they “booked a hotel room in Vancouver both coming and going so that we could have a good rest before the long 15 hour flight from Vancouver to Sydney.”  At each stage she made sure that she “indicated when booking flights and guided tours that I was Hard of Hearing.  I polished up my Hard of Hearing button, and packed all the tools for cleaning hearing aids and replacement bits.

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After sharing her tips for travel preparation, we learned some good tips for how she managed en route to their destinations.  “I checked all signage in airports and public transit, and confirmed the information. Upon entering the aircraft, I let the flight attendant know that I would need to be advised of critical announcements.

Once in Australia, Brenda “advised hotel desk personnel, tour guides, waiters in restaurants, etc., that I wear two hearing aids and would require clear articulation and eye contact.  I made certain to repeat back information re times and locations to be sure that I had it right.  I always looked for a corner table or the quietest spot in restaurants and was prepared to make errors and laugh.”  This last tip is essential.  Anyone who travels needs a good sense of humour, whether they have hearing loss or not!

She noted four particular challenges during the trip:

  1. Fatigue! “My solution was to try and find rest time each day.”  Good advice.  Those of us with hearing loss know how difficult it can be to concentrate on hearing when we’re exhausted.
  2. Driving on the left side. Brenda explained that “my ‘good’ ear was away from Gerry, who was the passenger and navigator, and sometimes misunderstood the directions he gave.  The solution was to study maps very carefully in advance, keep my cool, and not panic.
  3. Noise level in Sydney. “The noise in Sydney was very tough as it’s a very busy city.  The solution was to find some quiet time in the room each day.
  4. The Australian accent.

Brenda also had some surprises during the trip…..

There were hearing loops in Sydney Opera House and on Sydney ferries.”  (For a list of places with hearing loops on Prince Edward Island, see here: Places on PEI Equipped With A Hearing Loop)

She appreciated that there was “clear signage on Adelaide and Sydney buses re next stops.”  Much better than trying to figure out an announcement!

She noted that there was “generally greater awareness of hard of hearing than here.” Per the Australian Government Hearing Services Program, which is administered by the Department of Health, one in six Australians is affected by hearing loss, and this is expected to increase to one in four by 2050.  Given the expected growth in the demand for hearing services, the Government of Australia says it is focused on improving accessibility of hearing services. (See

Wondering about the percentages in Canada?  It’s already higher than in Australia!  According to  the 2012 to 2015 Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS), 40% of adults aged 20 to 79 had at least slight hearing loss in one or both ears.  Adults aged 60 to 79 were significantly more likely to have hearing loss (78%) compared with younger adults aged 40 to 59 (40%) and 20 to 39 (15%). Males (47%) were significantly more likely to have hearing loss compared with females (32%). (See

Summing up the advice by the two Brendas:

Brenda Graves:  “It’s your vacation.  Enjoy it!

Brenda Porter:  “Travel is wonderful.  Don’t wait.  Plan wisely re fatigue.  And know that people care and want to help.

Brenda’s presentation on Australia and solid tips for preparation were very much appreciated.  We hope she will share insights from future trips!

After these two enjoyable presentations, it was time to celebrate the birthday of Annie Lee MacDonald.


Celebrating Annie Lee MacDonald’s birthday.  (Photo credit:  Daria Valkenburg)

Summer doesn’t last forever.  Plan to join us at our September meeting:  Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church

For more tips on flying with hearing loss, see:  Got travel tips for travelling with hearing loss to share?  Email us at or comment on our blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg