Hearing Loss is a Disability

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Hearing loss is a disability that is recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with provisions required to address it. Unfortunately they do not apply to the communication problems hard of hearing people encounter when they travel. Announcements on the PA system in stations are often difficult or impossible to understand for a number of reasons and the same is true in train cars. Hearing aids by themselves to not resolve the problem but there is a technology that does - hearing loops.

Amtrak has ordered over 80 new "train sets" (engine and 5 or more cars) that will feature the technology with an option for an even larger number to be built in the future. They have not, however, addressed the problem of suitable communication access for travelers at ticket windows or announcements in the stations themselves. Airlines and airports are beginning to address these issues (read the article in TR News linked below) and Amtrak should too.

The US Access Board has been considering a recommendation that all future rail cars produced for use in the US feature hearing loop technology but has never taken final action on the matter. Members of this forum could help improve communication access for hard of hearing travelers by sending an email to the US Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration Policy and Development Office at: [email protected] asking for their support of that recommendation and that they consider a policy that would require such accommodations not just in rail cars but also in the stations.

It is going to be up to hard of hearing travelers and their friends to raise awareness and, hopefully availability of assistive listening technology in rail travel in this country to match what is available in the UK, Australia and elsewhere overseas. See the photos below from a station in a London suburb.

As a freelance writer on hearing loss issues, I would appreciate hearing from forum members who have stories they can share about communication difficulties they have encountered in stations and on trains and permission to quote them in any future articles I might write on the topic.
 

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AmtrakBlue

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I believe Union Station in D.C. has loops at their ticket windows. I rarely use the ticket windows in stations, so I don't know about other stations.

Hopefully Amtrak will install this new bluetooth capability in its stations.
Just Announced: Auracast Broadcast Audio - A New Bluetooth CapabilityAuracastブロードキャスト オーディオを発表 ―進化を続けるBluetoothの新たな可能性 | Bluetooth® Technology Website

Auracast™ broadcast audio is a new Bluetooth capability that enables an audio transmitter, such as a smartphone, laptop, or television, to broadcast audio to an unlimited number of nearby Bluetooth audio receivers, including speakers, earbuds, or hearing devices.

Amtrak does not own all of the stations it serves, so towns also need to be advised on how to serve the deaf/HoH

Communications of PA systems can be hard for hearing people to understand ;)

There are apps available for our phones that MAY help on trains and in stations.

I am a deaf/HoH recipient of bilateral cochlear implants. I understand the issues. I agree every public venue needs to address the hearing needs of the deaf/HoH.
 

cirdan

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I support this type of technology.

However, it is not just people with hearing disabilities who sometimes miss an announcement. Maybe they were are engrossed in a conversation or dosing off. And then some vital piece of information is announced, and never repeated.

I think it is just as important to use monitors in stations to display pertinent information for travelers, especially with regard to delays, disruptions, and anticipated boarding procedures. Similarly on board trains, monitors should display expected arrival times, which side of the train passengers can expect to disembark, and also information on connecting services etc (especially useful if these are affected by delays or disruptions, there thus needs to be a real-time feed and not just pre-recorded or pre-selected info).
 

cirdan

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Amtrak does not own all of the stations it serves, so towns also need to be advised on how to serve the deaf/HoH
I believe that Amtrak should not seek a go-it-alone solution but that there should be a consensus across all rail and transit operators to use the same system, so customers do not need to adapt but will know what to expect.

In such a situation it should not matter who owns the station.
 

Qapla

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The addition of hearing loops would make it easier for those with hearing aids that support that technology to hear the announcements - however, it does nothing for those who do not wear hearing aids or wear ones that don't include such features.

I find that a better learning curve would be an improvement that would not cost any additional expenditure. My experience has been that many clerks, Amtrak and elsewhere, do not look at you when they talk. They are looking down or at a computer screen. When you ask them to repeat something, they still do not look at you and often do not speak any louder even if you tell them you are hard-of-hearing.

Additionally, many announcements are not loud enough or the wrong "tone" to overcome the ambient noise so that even those who can hear cannot really hear them.

My hearing aids have BT technology and are connected to my phone. I would not want to have to pair them with a train, depot or other "place" I am in, causing me to have to drop the pairing with my phone, so I am not really interested in places using BT to help with this problem. I have no idea if my aids are "loop" enabled.

Having visual displays with large enough print would be a big help. Also, announcement preceded by an audible tone to get your attention would help - after all, most of us are already conditioned to hearing a tone to before we get a message (think text, WhatsApp, cellphones, etc.)
 

AmtrakBlue

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My hearing aids have BT technology and are connected to my phone. I would not want to have to pair them with a train, depot or other "place" I am in, causing me to have to drop the pairing with my phone, so I am not really interested in places using BT to help with this problem.

You won’t need to do the traditional pairing process that we’ve all gotten used to; this kind of audio sharing will effectively turn our phones into mobile Bluetooth radio stations that anyone can listen to.
Bluetooth Auracast turns your phone into a radio station | Digital Trends

I have no idea if my aids are "loop" enabled.
Let me know what HAs you have and I may be able to tell you if they can be loop enabled. Unfortunately audiologists and hearing aid specialists in the USA don't bother telling their patients about telecoil / loops. :(

after all, most of us are already conditioned to hearing a tone to before we get a message (think text, WhatsApp, cellphones, etc.)
I have had my phones muted for a long time due to my hearing getting so bad, even with HAs, that I was worried people would hear my phone before I did, if I did. I use the vibrate for notifications, but I don't always feel it - or if my phone is not in my hand or pocket, won't feel it. So, note sure "most" people with hearing loss are conditioned to hear a tone.
 

Qapla

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I've only had hearing aids for a short time although I have been living with hearing loss for a couple of decades (or more) since I never had insurance that would help with the cost. Fact is, even with my insurance, I almost didn't get them due to the cost! I know quite a number of people with hearing loss that do not have hearing aids - mostly, due to the cost.

That is why I mentioned that technology aimed at hearing aids, while a step in the right direction, is not the only answer to this disability. There needs to be non-hearing aid solutions to benefit those who don't wear hearing aids. Those same solutions would work for those of us who do wear them.

I might also mention, I have not been able to wear mine for several months due to medical reasons - so, even though I have aids - a solution aimed at aids would, at the present time, not help me at all.
 
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Amtrak Blue - You're right, there were some ticket counters looped at Grand Central and at Union Station in DC. There were also Amtrak info counters looped at Penn Station in NYC - I took picture of one of them (attached). These installations were done in response to efforts for the HLAA chapter and NY and the national office but are the only ones I know of that have been done.

Some have suggested the new Bluetooth Auracast technology would be possibly a better solution. It's not yet even available - no transmitters or receivers on the market - and requires an intermediary in order to connect to hearing aids. Eventually it will probably replace hearing loops because it will be accessible to so many more through their smarphones or Auracast earbuds (when they are marketed) BUT... does that mean people without hearing loss just need to suffer in silence until then? There are currently no hearing aids capable of receiving an Auracast signal and smartphones will need to be upgraded before they can.

The ADA requires braille signage in elevators and elsewhere even though not all blind people read braille. That's no different that requiring hearing loops even though not all HoH people have telecoil equipped hearing aids.

My interest with these posts is to see the ideas others care to offer as solutions to the communication problems for the HoH and to learn stories of travelers who had problems because of their hearing loss. I once missed an airline flight because I did not hear and understand an announcement re a gate change. A track change could cause the same result. - boarding the wrong train.
 

AmtrakBlue

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I agree that we shouldn't wait for the next greatest technology, but did want to mention the Auracast as a, hopefully near, future technology that looks to be a great solution for train stations and airports...at least put it on their radar to consider when it does become available.

I have not had any issues at airports or train stations, yet. But I do tend to keep alert and advocate for myself - I tell the gate people at airport that I'm deaf/HoH and where I'll be sitting in case there are any important messages that I need to know about.

When I'm on commuter trains, I'll check the provided map to see which two stations are before the one I want to detrain at so that I can count down to mine. Even on trains with signage as I might not be able to see the sign if the train is standing room only, or the signage may not be functioning accurately.

Since I indicate on my reservations that I'm deaf/HoH I've had conductors and flight attendants "check in with me" to see if I need assistance (I usually say, just if there are important announcements - like abandon ship! ;p )
 

Trollopian

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I just cross-posted to this thread from the broader ADA discussion at Checking up on Amtrak's (lack of) ADA compliance. An excerpt from my comment there is below, and echoes several points made here. I applaud the addition of telecoils, but they'll only help hearing-aid users, and as others point out, only a subset of hearing-aid users. Whereas better communication would help everybody.

"My own experience (I've worn hearing aids since childhood measles...the vaccine came along two years too late for me) is that, yes, I look for telecoils and similar technology. And I wonder if the new over-the-counter hearing aids recently authorized by the FDA, for the millions of people with mild to moderate loss, will have telecoils. Ideally, Amtrak and other carriers should serve everyone, hearing-impaired or not, by making clear announcements at moderate speed in unaccented English over functioning PA systems and by posting the same information on a visible screen. Yeah, a girl can dream."
 

UserNameRequired

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I looked at placing loops into our existing church building, and we found unfortunately that the fluorescent, CFL bulbs, and the building wiring threw off so much interference that it would be completely unusable without major rewiring and fixture replacement. We went with a 72Mhz (or was it the 216Mhz?) rechargeable battery powered amplifiers with headsets.


The second problem was that after talking to all the folks with hearing aids, not a single one knew how to turn on the coil receiver in their aids. I don't have hearing problems yet, didn't have easy access to hearing aid manuals, and I understand it may depend on how the audiologist programmed the aids in the first place as to how to turn the coil on and off.

I am wondering how well or even if a loop can perform in a train car...
 

AmtrakBlue

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I looked at placing loops into our existing church building, and we found unfortunately that the fluorescent, CFL bulbs, and the building wiring threw off so much interference that it would be completely unusable without major rewiring and fixture replacement. We went with a 72Mhz (or was it the 216Mhz?) rechargeable battery powered amplifiers with headsets.


The second problem was that after talking to all the folks with hearing aids, not a single one knew how to turn on the coil receiver in their aids. I don't have hearing problems yet, didn't have easy access to hearing aid manuals, and I understand it may depend on how the audiologist programmed the aids in the first place as to how to turn the coil on and off.

I am wondering how well or even if a loop can perform in a train car...
Unfortunately the audiologists don't tell their patients about the telecoil and hearing loops. And with the HAs getting smaller and smaller, there's not much room in them to place the telecoil. :( I wore power aids before I finally qualified for CIs, those are big enough for telecoils. And yes, the audiologist needs to set up a program to use telecoil. I have a program slot in my CI processors for the telecoil though I'm rarely anywhere when I can use it.
 

UserNameRequired

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As hearing loss is a disability, the thought suddenly occurred to me, does that allow one to claim the H room in sleepers while traveling?
 

JoshP

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Actually, hearing loss is not a properly word because once you lost a hearing, you are deaf. period. Why? I am deaf and I am disabled and always been since birth. I hate people calling themselves Hearing Loss or else.. if you lost hearing, call yourself "Deaf" which is a more proper word to announce.
 

Qapla

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As hearing loss is a disability, the thought suddenly occurred to me, does that allow one to claim the H room in sleepers while traveling?

No, you need to have a mobility disability to book the H room (before 14 days prior to travel).

Looks like I qualify for both disabilities ... too bad you can't combine discounts since I also get Senior
 
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I looked at placing loops into our existing church building, and we found unfortunately that the fluorescent, CFL bulbs, and the building wiring threw off so much interference that it would be completely unusable without major rewiring and fixture replacement. We went with a 72Mhz (or was it the 216Mhz?) rechargeable battery powered amplifiers with headsets.


The second problem was that after talking to all the folks with hearing aids, not a single one knew how to turn on the coil receiver in their aids. I don't have hearing problems yet, didn't have easy access to hearing aid manuals, and I understand it may depend on how the audiologist programmed the aids in the first place as to how to turn the coil on and off.

I am wondering how well or even if a loop can perform in a train car...

The problem at your church is often encountered and does preclude the installation of a hearing loop. Because of the latency inherent in existing WiFi systems it is better to install an FM ALS than WiFi as you appear to have done. That latency causes an echo effect that can actually make it even more difficult to understand what's being broadcast.

Hearing loops, when properly installed, work well in train cars in the UK, Sweden and many other countries. Here in the US they are already installed in 1,000 rapid transit cars in the San Francisco BART and will be a feature offered by the NYC subway when they begin taking delivery of the cars they have on order.
 
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Actually, hearing loss is not a properly word because once you lost a hearing, you are deaf. period. Why? I am deaf and I am disabled and always been since birth. I hate people calling themselves Hearing Loss or else.. if you lost hearing, call yourself "Deaf" which is a more proper word to announce.
Hearing loss encompasses a wide range, from mild to profound, which includes total deafness. Hearing loss is determined by one's ability to hear various frequencies and at specific decibel levels. Additionally, speech recognition is a factor.
 

AmtrakBlue

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Actually, hearing loss is not a properly word because once you lost a hearing, you are deaf. period. Why? I am deaf and I am disabled and always been since birth. I hate people calling themselves Hearing Loss or else.. if you lost hearing, call yourself "Deaf" which is a more proper word to announce.
That is your opinion. Hearing loss is proper wording. I had normal hearing till I started LOSING my hearing in my mid-30's. I was not deaf till years later as my LOSS worsened and power HAs were not much help. I now consider myself deaf/HoH. I am deaf when I'm not using my cochlear implants processors. I am HoH when I am using my processors as I have not gained back 100% "normal" hearing, though my hearing is up there (comprehension is in the 80 - 85% range).

Oh, and no, you do not call yourself Deaf just because you can't hear Capital "D" deaf is a culture that uses sign language. I am deaf, not Deaf.
 
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Devil's Advocate

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I hate people calling themselves Hearing Loss or else.. if you lost hearing, call yourself "Deaf" which is a more proper word to announce.
I dislike it when people judge words over actions and motives. If and when I lose my hearing I'll call it whatever I like but I will not expect everyone else to use my specific choice of words.
 

AmtrakBlue

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I dislike it when people judge words over actions and motives. If and when I lose my hearing I'll call it whatever I like but I will not expect everyone else to use my specific choice of words.
Just don't use "hearing impaired"! We're not impaired! Ok, I sometimes use it but it is considered a no-no, especially among the Deaf. ;)
 

Henry Kisor

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Hearing loss is a disability that is recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with provisions required to address it. Unfortunately they do not apply to the communication problems hard of hearing people encounter when they travel. Announcements on the PA system in stations are often difficult or impossible to understand for a number of reasons and the same is true in train cars. Hearing aids by themselves to not resolve the problem but there is a technology that does - hearing loops.

Amtrak has ordered over 80 new "train sets" (engine and 5 or more cars) that will feature the technology with an option for an even larger number to be built in the future. They have not, however, addressed the problem of suitable communication access for travelers at ticket windows or announcements in the stations themselves. Airlines and airports are beginning to address these issues (read the article in TR News linked below) and Amtrak should too.

The US Access Board has been considering a recommendation that all future rail cars produced for use in the US feature hearing loop technology but has never taken final action on the matter. Members of this forum could help improve communication access for hard of hearing travelers by sending an email to the US Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration Policy and Development Office at: [email protected] asking for their support of that recommendation and that they consider a policy that would require such accommodations not just in rail cars but also in the stations.

It is going to be up to hard of hearing travelers and their friends to raise awareness and, hopefully availability of assistive listening technology in rail travel in this country to match what is available in the UK, Australia and elsewhere overseas. See the photos below from a station in a London suburb.

As a freelance writer on hearing loss issues, I would appreciate hearing from forum members who have stories they can share about communication difficulties they have encountered in stations and on trains and permission to quote them in any future articles I might write on the topic.

Just be aware that the world of the not-hearing is immensely diverse and still argues over the proper descriptive terms. I am not Deaf; I was not born deaf and do not use ASL. I am totally and completely deaf, yet there are those in the Deaf world who classify me as "hard of hearing." The term "hearing impaired" does not bother me because meningitis utterly impaired my hearing 78 years ago. Yet I recognize that many of my brethren hate the term "impaired" because society tends to expand the word from specificity to generality. So what to do? Recognize that there are as many opinions as there are deaf/Deaf/HOH/don't-hear-so good-no-more human beings, and go with the flow.
 

plane2train

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The main issue I find in stations, airports, trains and planes is the lack of surround sound for announcements. For many of us who are hard of hearing, it’s not enough to speak clearly through the intercom. We also need speakers projecting sound from the back. For example, on a plane, installing loudspeakers on the rear bulkhead would project the sound directly toward our hearing aids as we look forward. Same thing for the train. This is why so many HoH people cup their hands around the backs of their ears: they need more sound than their ears are capable of catching.
 
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