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Perhaps the most important part of any journey is finding your way. Just like maps are made by those who have gone before (or all knowing satellites – wouldn’t that be nice in special needs parenting?), we learn both where and how to go through the experiences of pioneers in disability travel. Since travelling with a child with hearing loss is outside of my wheelhouse of expertise, I looked for those wayfinders to lead the way. I found four moms who see the value in sharing new experiences with their kids, regardless of obstacles.
Meet the moms
Marissa, mom to two-year-old Kieran, is the writer behind Postcards to Seattle, where she shares Pacific Northwest travel tips and itineraries. She also shares her travels and more tips for travelling with kids on Instagram. Her content doesn’t focus on travel with hearing loss, but it’s a part of everything she does.
Kayla is mom to four-year-old Maci. Maci has many medical complexities, including hearing loss. Maci wears hearing aids and explores the world with her mom, who refuses to throw in the towel in the name of convenience.
Kady is mom to two girls and the writer behind Tavadventures, inspiring all young globe-trotters to never stop searching for the next adventure. Kady’s youngest, Ava, is a brain cancer warrior and travels with hearing loss and medical needs.
Amie Jo is mom to this issue’s guest editor, Angela Lynn, and the change-maker behind Corner4Success, an inspirational Roku channel. She has years of parenting experience behind her and knows the ins and outs of travelling with a child with hearing loss.
What anxieties did you have to overcome to travel with your child with hearing loss?
“The only major anxiety we have had is making sure we have a power source so we can recharge her cochlear implants. We have purposefully kept to more first world countries because of this. We always need a power source that’s dependable and travelling in very third world countries can be an issue.” ~Kady
“For us, it was how she would handle the noise on a plane or boat. We had a family member suggest we take her hearing aids out for take off and landing in the plane. So glad we had that advice ahead of time, because it really did help. Whenever we travel, I am always concerned about losing one of her hearing aids and then her not being able to take everything in as well and then the process of getting a replacement when we get home.” ~Kayla
“Vacations were always a source of worry especially when navigating places like airports or bus terminals. Our primary concern during travels with our adventurous daughter was ensuring her safety in unfamiliar environments. We embarked on numerous journeys across the U.S., where her boundless enthusiasm often translated into quick, impulsive actions. This presented challenges, particularly because she couldn’t react to auditory warnings like car horns or shouts of caution. As a result, we were always involved with keeping Angela Lynn close by, often by holding her hand during outings to various places. While this was essential for her safety, it sometimes limited her freedom and was physically draining for both of us. To address this, we used a child safety harness, a decision met with differing opinions. Despite frowns and negative looks from strangers, the harness proved to be an effective and joyous solution for our family. It granted Angela Lynn the freedom to explore while ensuring her safety in crowded or unfamiliar environments, offering us the much-needed peace of mind.” ~Amie Jo
How does travel look different for you than for other families?
“We have to be a lot more intentional when we speak to him while we travel, meaning turning to face him while we speak so he can hear us more clearly, and understanding that some situations may be too loud and overwhelming for him, and knowing when to take a break. There is also extra gear to remember to pack, including his hearing aid charging case and wipes for his hearing aids.” ~Marissa
“We have travelled all over the world so we sort of knew which places we could go to and which places would be trickier. For example, backpacking: we can’t go for more than a night or two because we run out of recharged cochlear batteries. We also stay away from extremely remote places where there is no medical care in the event we need help.” ~Kady
“As a signing family, our experiences are visually similar to those of families without Deaf members. However, while Angela Lynn communicates primarily through visual and tactile means, a child who can hear depends more on spoken words and sounds. This difference means we have to plan and experience our travels differently. We often use sign language, written messages, and other visual methods of communication. These are particularly important in noisy places where it’s hard to read lips.” ~Amie Jo
What advice would you give to parents looking to travel with a child with hearing loss?
“Since we have a five year old as well, we had done normal travel with a kid before, but realized quickly that our two year old can do all the same activities. The biggest piece of advice is just being conscious of places that are loud, such as airports, and being patient if you have to repeat yourself. We have done many successful family vacations together, including Hawaii and Whistler, Canada.” ~Marissa
“Go! Travel! You can make it work. There is always a way. “Don’t overthink it. Just go and be ready to be flexible. Find the style or destination that better meets your needs. I think for any disability, when you can drive it makes things easier because you are in control of their equipment. That can lessen that anxiety some.” ~Kady
Is there a destination, or style of trip that’s easier, or better meets your needs?
“We absolutely love doing road trips around the Pacific Northwest. I also find it easier because we can keep all of his supplies in the glove compartment, so they are organized and clean. I can also wear a DM system so he can clearly hear me when I speak to him while driving.” ~Marissa
“Definitely places with reliable power sources and countries that are more developed.” ~Kady
“I think anything that avoids water is easier, because then your child doesn’t have to take hearing aids out. However, our girl LOVES the water, so we would never avoid water just for convenience. There are plenty of ways to communicate with her other than verbally. The beach is hard with hearing aids. Not worth the risk in my opinion. Sand, water: that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.” ~Kayla
Can you share a travel experience that keeps you coming back for more?
“We go to Canada on a yearly basis, particularly Vancouver and Whistler. The boys love how much there is to do outdoors there, from hiking trails to parks, and they love eating new food while there. It’s also a very family-friendly country.” ~Marissa
“We went to see wolves in Yellowstone six years ago and we can’t get enough! We go at least 20 times a year. It’s an amazing activity to do with Ava, our deaf daughter, because she also has mobility issues, so watching animals from pullouts in the park works perfectly for us. She also loves animals. We learn something every time we go!” ~Kady
“Florida was a wonderful experience. We ran into other kids with hearing aids. We sat next to two young adult men that were using ASL to communicate. My daughter noticed, which then opened the door to talk with them about their experience growing up.” ~Kayla
Can you share a travel experience that you learned from?
“Since my son is a toddler, he sometimes has tantrums, which includes him taking his hearing aids out. When we’re in public, it’s easy to just throw them in a jacket or sweatshirt pocket until he lets us put them in again, but we have also had many scares where we went to look for them later and couldn’t find them. I now carry a small case for his hearing aids so if he does take them out, we know that they’re contained and exactly where they are.” ~Marissa
“We are constantly learning. And once we think we have it all figured out our kids grow and change. I think you can learn from every trip you take. It’s why we love travelling. But the biggest thing we have learned from travelling is to be adaptable.” ~Kady
“I don’t know of a specific place I’d say is great for people with hearing loss, but just get out there. Experience life.” ~Kayla
Is there anything else that parents aspiring to travel should know?
“We always prep our kids for new vacations by showing them pictures or videos of the area, and then they’re able to get really excited once we get there and it makes them feel more prepared. Our youngest does SEE (signed exact English) and spoken word, so I always make sure to teach him new signs and words related to the area so he gets excited practicing them.” ~Marissa
“If your kid has cochlear implants it would be helpful to get some sort of blue tooth or device that acts as headphones for the airplane since traditional headphones don’t usually work. Bring external power sources if you’re going somewhere remote. If your child is deaf, they automatically get a free National Parks disability pass! Take advantage of that and go to the parks!” ~Kady
“You’ll be amazed by the people you meet and the joy you may bring to someone else. A mom at a hotel we stayed in thought it was so cool to meet another kid with hearing aids. I guess she’s never seen another kid with them. My husband and I feel like we see other kids with hearing aids all the time, but that’s because we are always up to going and trying new things.” ~Kayla
While all three moms agree, I think Kady best summed it up, “Go! Travel! You can make it work. There is always a way.”
As with any disability, there are challenges along the way, but it’s always worth it. You know your child best. Avoid environments that you know will be overwhelming, while challenging yourself to get outside of your comfort zone and experience life fully. You’ve got this.