How to Ask for Hearing Help
Self-advocacy is how we get the help we need to hear
Just like people with mobility issues have a right to curb cuts, ramps, and automatic doors, we have a right to captions, assistive listening devices and systems, and other hearing accommodations.
Asking for hearing help is simply asking for your civil right to effective communication access.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal and state laws uphold your right to effective communications access. In other words, you have a right to the hearing help you need to communicate on an equal footing with those without a hearing disability.
Unfortunately, accommodations for hearing loss are not as straightforward as those for mobility issues. We have to ask for the help we need and often have to educate people about the options. However, the more we raise our voices, the more visible hearing loss becomes.
Tips for asking for hearing help
You take your hearing loss everywhere you go. As a result, advocating for yourself means telling people in all areas of your life what you need to have equal access. This means friends and family, colleagues and your faith community, and people responsible for access in all the public places we live our lives.
Successful self-advocates know their rights and can explain their needs clearly and respectfully. Moreover, focus on being prepared, flexible, creative, and persistent. The term accommodation often refers to hearing help, support, or hearing assistance.
- Understand your hearing loss. Learn how your specific hearing loss impacts your ability to hear and communicate in different situations. This will help you easily and definitively explain why you need assistance.
- Understand what help you need in different situations. Hearing aids may not be enough in noisy, crowded, or large spaces. Therefore, you may want to ask for captions or an assistive listening system.
- Know the laws that support your right to hearing support. The ADA is the best known accessibility law. But, other federal and state laws specifically apply to employment, housing, and education. Learn more below.
- Make your requests in advance and follow up. It usually takes venues some time to figure out a solution — be persistent
- Thank the people and venues that met your needs. Positive reinforcement goes a long way. Therefore, write a thank you note and post a positive review on social media to keep people engaged with providing hearing access.
Self-advocacy is essential — if you don’t ask for what you need, people assume you don’t need it.
Practice asking for help
We know it can be uncomfortable at best, and terrifying at worst, to disclose a disability and request help. It can be exhausting reminding friends to look at you when they talk. Further, it’s frustrating having to request special assistance in public venues. But it is also very empowering to advocate successfully for what you need and it becomes easier with practice.
With the right information and a little persistence, you can rely on yourself instead of letting others decide what they think will work best for you. Self-advocacy lets you take control.
If you’re nervous, start with people who care for you. Then work your way up to advocating for yourself in different situations. You can say things like…
- I have a hearing loss, it would be helpful if you would face me as we talk.
- It would help me a lot if we go somewhere quieter so I can hear you.
- Could you please repeat that a bit more slowly?
- I’m hard of hearing; do you have an assistive listening system or other accommodations that will help me hear better?
- It would be very helpful if you would please write that down for me?
Let people know early in a conversation that you have a hearing loss, this reduces miscommunication and the need to repeat information. It’s a win win.
Know before you go
A little research can go a long way to getting you the help you need.
- Look at the venue’s website: Check to see if there is information about available hearing accommodations. This information is often included on an Accessibly page or within a Plan Your Visit section.
- Call ahead: Before showing up for an appointment, theater performance, or dinner date, call the venue and ask to speak with someone who can answer questions about hearing loss accommodations. “I have hearing loss and need to know how your place of business can help me hear better.”
- Send a letter or email: If it’s easier, send a letter or email to the venue asking for hearing accommodations for an upcoming event or meeting. Download Sample communication access request.
Hearing loops are now on Google Maps
In collaboration with HLAA’s Get in the Hearing Loop Program (GITHL), Google Maps now shows hearing loops as a new accessibility attribute! Simply enter your venue into Google Maps, scroll left from Overview, and tap About — accessibility options will be shown under Features.
Hearing loops are still being added to the Google Maps database. If you know a venue has a hearing loop, but it is not showing up yet, please click here to add the information to the GITHL online form. Thank you!
Know what to ask for and how to reference the ADA
Assistive listening technologies are an important part of your hearing toolbox. As technologies continue to evolve, useful solutions vary depending on where you need communication access. For example, accommodations available at a doctor’s office are likely different from what’s offered at a theater, or what you need at your place of work.
Bringing legal mandates into the conversation usually gets people’s attention. It’s important to reference ADA language accurately. The communication access section of the ADA states: A public accommodation shall furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities.
- Public accommodations is the term used to describe auxiliary aids and services that must be provided for people with hearing loss.
- An assistive listening system, like a hearing loop, is an auxiliary aid
- Real-time captioning (CART) is an example of an auxiliary service.
Communication access in Healthcare
Whether it’s your annual check-up or a surgery and hospital stay, you and your health care team must be able to communicate clearly to ensure the best and safest care possible. Sadly, communication between patients and providers is not always effective. Many auxiliary aids and services can be helpful in healthcare settings.
You have a legal right to aids and services that enable you to receive information in a way you can understand. Your family and caregivers have the same rights so they can be included in your care and treatment. Also, you cannot be asked to pay for accommodations. If you are asked to pay for services, tell the facility that they are legally responsible for providing effective communication.
Communication access and employment
Hearing assistive technology (HAT) can provide help you do your job effectively. Review your job responsibilities and determine how accommodations can help you meet specific challenges. For example, would a caption phone or hearing aid compatible smartphone help you on client calls? Would a hearing loop in the conference room make it easier to hear in staff meetings?
If you need your employer to purchase a system or device, explain how it will help you do your job and, if possible, provide a cost estimate and options for purchasing the systems to help simplify and speed the process. Also, be sure to share communication strategies that work best for you with your co-workers and clients.
Know your rights
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), is the best-known accessibility law. But many other laws support your right to communication access in specific places and/or situations.
- Which Disability Law Applies to You? (credit: HLAA Boston Chapter)
- Recent legislation and HLAA advocacy
Washington State Laws:
Hearing well in different situations may require different technologies — hear aids aren’t always enough, and what works best at home may not work when you are out and about
Practicing communication tips can help improve your relationships, reduce stress, and build positive interactions — and the sooner action is taken, the better.
Learn From People Who Know
Join our monthly, online HOPE meetings and get proven strategies from people who use them — Hearing Other People’s Experience