Amusement parks are often go-to places for everyone, children or adults, in the summertime. Having not been to one since high school, last week I found myself at Playland with a couple of friends. This time I came with a “hearing advocate” mindset, making observations on the unique experience of a person with hearing loss in navigating an amusement park, which I would like to share with you.
1) On or off? That is the most frequently asked question for those of us who have hearing equipment (hearing aids or cochlear implant processors). Do I keep these on in the rides? What if they fall off? Seeing that these equipment cost thousands of dollars, we really need to think carefully of the risks. The answer is it depends.
Factor 1: Intensity & speed of the ride – the hearing equipment will be more likely to fall off when it is exposed to strong winds generated by the speed and sudden horizontal/vertical movements, as experienced in roller coasters and other extreme rides. On the other hand if the ride is low-key, such as ferris wheel, pirate ship, and bumper cars, chances are very low for the equipment to fall off. Some of us may want to have the full experience of sound in the rides although not having the equipment will mean not having to hear our own screams!
Factor 2: Tightness of the hearing equipment – the good thing about hearing aids is that they are secured by ear molds which reduce the likelihood of them falling off. Make sure that the ear molds are tight as they can become loose over time. As for cochlear implant processors, there is a snugfit accessory that can retain the device on the ear. That being said there is still a risk that the equipment can fall off as you never know what may happen on the ride (e.g., the person next to you accidentally fling their hand over your ear – that actually happened to me, but thankfully my ears were “clean”).
2) Where do the equipment go? The answer is easy if you have parents tagging along. Ask nicely if they can hold on to your equipment for a while. If you are going with friends, chances are you are on your own and then your first thought is to put the equipment in your pant pockets. That’d be a big no-no! There are rides where you will be paired with another person, which the force will push you against each other towards the sides. At the end you may just find your
equipment crushed. The best bet is to bring a case that you put your hearing devices in before bed. The case is small and it can fit in your pant pockets.
3) What did the controller say? Before the ride begins there is an announcement made outlining the safety rules etc. Even though it may seem common sense for us to know what to do/not to do on a ride, it is still good to ensure we can access the information. Usually there is a plaque that lists all the rules at the front of the waiting line, so that is one way. If you are social as I am, talk to the controller beforehand. There was one ride in Playland called the Drop Zone,
which you definitely need to take off the hearing equipment. I didn’t go on that ride, but I noticed that more instructions were given when the two players were dangling in the air on standby (see pic on left). If I was on there, I would have had put away the equipment at that point and obviously would not understand the instructions. Thus here are the two tips to communication if you should ever be without hearing equipment:
Tip #1: Talk to a controller beforehand to get all the instructions and work out a hand signal system.
Tip #2: Ask yes or no questions as the person will either nod or shake their heads in response so that is a clear message.
4) A fashion idea! – this just came to mind as I am writing this post. Why not wear a head
bandana or sweatband? It looks like you are ready to become master of thrills while taking in comfort your hearing equipment are secured.
Have a blast at an amusement park near you!