What Does Hearing Accessible Mean in a Hotel Room?

16% of American adults report at least some hearing trouble, with 11% of Americans reporting tinnitus, and 1 in 5 British adults have hearing loss greater than 25 dBHL.

With hearing problems so common, hotels are required to offer hearing accessible rooms for those who won’t otherwise be notified by the ring of the doorbell, potentially leading them to be surprised by a cleaner or other staff member who assumes they’re not in.

What is a hearing accessible room?

A hearing accessible room means that instead of using sounds to notify the occupants, lights and vibrations are instead used – as a person with severe hearing loss may not hear the sound.

For example, rather than a ringing doorbell, the room’s light may flash with a strobe light effect instead, and clocks and alarms may vibrate instead.

Other features of hearing accessible hotel rooms include:

  1. TTY phones (text telephones, sometimes known as TDD phones) for deaf or hard-of-hearing people use the telephone to type their messages, rather than speak and listen. The phone has a flash or vibration rather than ringtone when called, and a visual screen and, adjustable volume for optional sound.
  2. Telephones compatible with hearing aids or hearing amplifiers
  3. Vibrating alarm clock rather than a noise-emitting one.
  4. Flashing light fire / smoke alarm in case of emergency, or intercom.
  5. Closed caption TV decoders for reading subtitles.
  6. Interpreters and transcription services at public events in the hotel

While hearing hotel rooms are expected to contain these types of features, there is no set hearing accessible room meaning, and some rooms may offer different facilities than others – though hearing accessible rooms are mandated by law to be in every hotel.

As people with hearing impairments can also have other disabilities, do not hesitate to ask hotel staff about any other requirements, such as an accessible bathroom with roll-in shower, shorter accessible bed, wheelchair access, or a room that is suitable for a service animal.

How many hearing impaired rooms are required in a hotel?

Based on the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, hotels must have:

Number of roomsNumber of hearing accessible rooms required
1 to 252
26 to 504
51 to 756
76 to 1008
101 to 15010
151 to 20012
201 to 30014
301 to 40016
401 to 50018
501 to 10004% of the total number of rooms
1001+40, plus 2 for every 100 rooms over 1000
The number of hearing-impaired hotel rooms required per number of total rooms. Source: travelready.org

So, for example, if a hotel has 30 rooms, at least 4 must be hearing accessible, whereas if the hotel has 130 rooms, at least 10 must be hearing accessible rooms.

The ADA law prevents hotels from charging a surcharge of any kind in relation to these extras. 

Can anyone book a hearing accessible hotel room?

Yes, there are no laws or rules preventing normally abled people from booking hearing accessible rooms. You do not need to provide any proof of disability when you book or check-in.

By law, handicapped rooms are to be the last rooms to be booked in a hotel, so that people requiring extra accessibility can access these rooms. 

Can regular hotel rooms be converted into a hearing accessible room?

Yes, the original hotel rooms are built the same, with alterations being made after construction. Therefore, non-hearing accessible hotel rooms can be converted into hearing rooms by fitting them with the necessary TV, alarm, and flashing doorbell features.

What does hearing accessible mean?

Hearing accessible means that the room you are staying in has been fitted with equipment and appliances suitable for those with severe hearing loss or other hearing impediments. These include flashing light alarm clocks, vibrating alarms, captioned TVs, and telephones that can be typed into to communicate with people, among other features.

Are other accommodations available in a hearing-accessible room?

It is recommended to ask the hotel staff and inform them of your requirements beforehand, so they can let you know ahead of time what their availabilities are for you. Generally, other accessibility options for hotels include an accessible bathroom, such as one with an accessible shower (such as a roll-in shower for wheelchair users), and a more accessible, shorter bed.

Generally, accessible rooms feature larger doors for easier access, lower-positioned sinks and shower handrails for those that may struggle to reach higher sinks, and a more accessible toilet. The showers are designed so that those in a wheelchair, or standing, can access the water, soap, and other care products from either a standing or seated position.