Learning to Travel with Both Hearing and Vision Loss

I have hearing loss as well as low vision. Can I still learn to travel safely and independently?

People who have hearing loss as well as blindness or low vision—and people who are profoundly deaf and totally blind—can travel in their communities, commute to work, and even travel around the world independently.

Communicating with Vision and Hearing Loss

A primary orientation and mobility (O&M) challenge for individuals who cannot hear or see well is learning to communicate effectively with people who can provide help or information, such as store personnel, bus drivers, police, and pedestrians.

During O&M training, you can learn which communication strategies will work for you and have the opportunity to practice various communication techniques while your O&M instructor observes and provides feedback.

One useful communication technique is to use a card with a message written on it. For example, to communicate the need to get across a street, you can use a street-crossing card:

A street-crossing card for deaf-blind individuals; credit Dona Sauerburger

A street-crossing card for deaf-blind individuals (credit: Dona Sauerburger and Gene Bourquin)

  • The 8″x 4″ laminated card has a tab centered at the bottom so the individual can hold it without covering the text. The card is attached to a cord that is worn around the neck.

Here’s an additional tip from Tracy Stine at Confessions of a DeafBlind Mother:

“Some DeafBlind people carry a business card flipbook with a variety of comments and directions (bus designations, building names, and street names, for example) written in regular print, with their own notes and indexes written in braille. When they need information, they flip through the book and show the driver or helping hand the printed note card.”

For more information about communication and alternatives to street-crossing for people who are blind or have low vision in addition to hearing loss, see Getting Across the Street with Visual and Hearing Impairments.

About Hearing Aids

Many newer digital hearing aids are programmed to magnify speech and eliminate background noise, which can make it more challenging to identify and localize traffic sounds and other environmental “orientation clues.”

If you wear hearing aids, it’s important to let your audiologist know you need to hear a wider range of environmental sounds, such as traffic noise. Once your audiologist is aware of your O&M needs, he or she can program your digital hearing aids so that you can identify and localize these important environmental sounds more accurately.