Studying Abroad with a Hearing Disorder

October 30, 2019

I have moderate hearing loss, which means for me, my hearing aids are like reading glasses. I need them in some situations, but not in all. I wasn’t sure what to expect when studying abroad with a hearing disorder, but these are some of the things I discovered while in London at University of Roehmapton.

1. Accents are Hard

The U.K. has so many accents. Not just regional dialects but accents from all around the world. It can be hard when you already can’t hear so great, but then when exposed to an entirely new accent with different sounds you aren’t used to can be even harder. When talking to someone, I wished they had subtitles because I often have to ask them to repeat. But most people are understanding and will slow down and repeat. Even people with perfect hearing struggle with accents. It takes getting used to, but soon enough, I got the hang of the sound of words, and it was as easy as it is back home.

2. Increase in Ambient Noise

My dorm is right next to a major road outside the university. Back home, my dorm is far away from roads, so I never thought about how studying in a city was going to be different. When wearing my hearing aids, there is so much more auditory input that it can be overwhelming. It is important to find quiet spaces, and I have found those on my walks to class through the many green spaces on campus. Coming from a rural school to an urban school has been challenging, but I have found resting and drinking water while out and about can make the increase of sound more manageable.

3. Ear Plugs!

It is so essential to protect your hearing regardless of if you have a hearing disorder or not. I keep a set of earplugs in my backpack and purse for loud spaces. For Freshers’ Week, my school rented out a club, and there were drinks and loud music. I was so glad to have those earplugs because I could dance without damaging my hearing. Have fun while protecting your hearing!

4. Overhead Speakers

On the Tube, it can be hard to hear the announcements of the upcoming station or the delays. Make sure you have Citymapper or another app for transportation so that you can look ahead of time. Also, always read the signs which might be obvious, but they often give more information than just the overhead announcement.

These are just a few tips that can be useful in my first few weeks. Traveling with a hearing disorder can be frustrating at times but realize it is not impossible. I was nervous about how hearing impaired would impact my time abroad, but I have found with these small tips I am still having a blast!

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