Couple sharing a treat

Working toward a world where anyone with hearing loss can fully engage at home, work, or play

With 360 million people worldwide living with disabling hearing loss, it’s more imperative than ever that everyday communication moments — from ordering fast food to catching a concert in the park — be as easy as possible for all.

People and technology have long risen to the challenge of knocking down communication barriers. Check out these six examples of inclusive approaches to helping community members with hearing loss stay connected, feel supported, and be empowered.

A 2003 Inclusion Solutions survey of over 6,400 people regarding drive-thru dining access and assistance found that “access is a major concern to the deaf community and others,” and that some customers “[leave] a drive-thru line in frustration” because of communication challenges.

Some restaurants have stepped up their communication game with strategies such as hiring hearing-impaired staffers, adding people trained in American Sign Language (ASL), offering live two way-video ordering using sign language, and providing point-and-order convenience.

Many museums, churches, schools, and other community spaces have long worked to welcome all hearing levels, whether through robust use of visual signage, sign language interpreting services, or other methods.

Some businesses and organizations have even installed hearing loops around their venues, letting users receive enhanced audio by wirelessly connecting through the T-coil setting on their hearing aids. Look for the hearingloop logo at participating spots.

Cinemas are making moviegoing more accessible than ever for guests with hearing difficulties, offering options such as captions projected onto the big screen, closed caption small-screen devices that fit in the cup holder, and outlets to connect headphones and neck loops into the venue’s wireless receiver. Look for “CC” and other accessibility icons when checking movie listings online.

Regal Cinemas, one of the largest theater operators, provides closed-captioning glasses featuring subtitles and audio descriptions projected onto the lenses. The company also offers open-captioned viewing in some theaters — featuring subtitles directly on the large screen — for groups of 10 or more who make advance arrangements.

Having trouble hearing phone conversations can feel frustrating, but caption telephones can turn that around. These federally funded landline devices — free if a qualified hearing care professional attests to your hearing loss and the need for a caption telephone service — shows the spoken words of the other party.

All it takes is a standard phone line, a broadband Internet connection, and electrical power. The best part? In addition to offering a flashing ringer or vibration to alert you to incoming calls, many caption phones work with telecoil-equipped hearing aids for direct listening.

In a move that could help launch American Sign Language into mainstream video game culture, creators of the action-adventure puzzle game “Moss” have infused the hero — an endearing mouse named Quill — with some ASL skills.

The game debuted on PlayStation VR earlier this year, but a summer 2017 tweet featuring a signing Quill had already garnered instant fans — along with more than 10,000 retweets and nearly 31,000 likes as of mid-February 2018 — who appreciated the ASL inclusion.

In response to online comments, animator Richard Lico added in a follow-up tweet that the team could “consider supporting more sign-language options” in addition to ASL if the “Moss” foray succeeds.

Today’s technology can turn any alerting sound into a visual or vibratory cue, allowing doorbells, smoke alarms, and other everyday household fixtures to alert using flashing lights or vibrations.

Smartphones are in on the action, too. Check the “Accessibility” settings for features such as flashing visual alerts for incoming calls and other notifications.

We, too, care about access for all and want to ensure you can fully engage with the world around you. Whether you need a hearing evaluation, customized hearing technology, or more information on innovations in public and private spaces to make communication easier than ever, call us.

We’re here to help with your better-hearing journey!