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Which UK cultural spots are the most accessible for visitors with hearing loss?

In the UK, an estimated 11 million people live with varying degrees of hearing loss, making it vitally important that tourist attractions and cultural spots up and down the nation do everything they can to accommodate visitors with a hearing loss. So, which of the UK’s most cultural and historic attractions are doing the most to improve the overall experiences of hearing impaired individuals?

As part of the Most Accessible Attractions Report, the experts at ReSound researched 40 of the most visited attractions in the UK, and analysed how many accommodating features were available for the hearing-impaired, as well as TripAdvisor scores, and the number of TripAdvisor reviews that mentioned the word ‘deaf’, ‘hearing impaired’ or ‘BSL’ (British Sign Language).

Revealed: The most accessible cultural spots in the UK for people with hearing loss

From induction loops and designated quiet areas, to sign language tours, which tourist attractions are implementing the highest number of elements to improve the experience of hearing-impaired visitors?

The report reveals that the top three most accessible cultural spots for hearing-impaired visitors are The British Museum, The Scottish National Gallery and The Roman Baths.

British Museum crowned the most accessible cultural spot in the UK for hearing-impaired visitors

Leading the way as the most accessible cultural attraction in the UK for individuals with hearing loss is The British Museum in London, with a total score of 78.2 out of 80.

The tourist hotspot, home to two million years of human history and culture, also has an extensive range of accommodating facilities for the hearing impaired, including an induction loop, sign language videos, and guided sign language tours.

The museum has received an average score of 9.2 out of 10 from hearing-impaired visitors, and has even considered the nuancing effects of background noise for hearing aid wearers, allocating quieter visiting times and designated quiet areas for them to fully enjoy the space.

Scottish National Gallery ranks as the second most accessible culture spot for visitors with hearing loss

Emerging in second place as one of the most accessible culture spots for hearing-impaired tourists is The Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, with a score of 69 out of 80.

The gallery has added a variety of accommodating features to ensure hearing aid wearers are able to enjoy one of the best collections of fine art in the world, as well as understand the rich history behind each piece.

The inclusion of an induction loop, sign language tours/videos tours, allocated quiet times and areas, and events for hearing-impaired visitors, has seen the gallery receive an average score of 9 out of 10 from Tripadvisor reviews.

Roman Baths rank as the third most accessible UK attraction for visitors with hearing loss

Finding itself in third place of the most accessible attractions researched for the study are The Roman Baths in Bath, Somerset, with a total score of 69 out of 80.

Their impressive range of facilities includes an induction loop, sign language videos and guides, quiet visiting times and spaces, and also events specially designed for those hard of hearing, to allow them to easily explore more than 2000 years worth of history.

All staff at the attraction are required to partake in disability awareness training, making it no surprise that the baths have received top marks, with an average score of 10 out of 10 from hearing-impaired reviewers on Tripadvisor.

Ranking the best cultural spots for accessibility by hearing-impaired visitors

With 1 in 6 of the UK’s adult population affected with hearing loss, the Most Accessible Attractions Report looked at how many Tripadvisor reviews mentioned hearing impairments or British Sign Language, and used this to calculate an average figure to determine the best tourist hotspots for hearing-impaired visitors to enjoy a day out.

Roman Baths ranked best for accessibility by hearing-impaired reviewers

The Roman Baths top the table as the best tourist attraction for accessibility, with an unbeatable average score of 10 out of 10.

Visitors suffering from hearing loss took to Tripadvisor to praise the venue for its accommodating features for hearing-impaired individuals or those that require BSL.

The venue offers hearing aid users an audio guide that is compatible with the "T" switch on their hearing aids or the option of a printed copy of the audio guide text. Alternatively, those that require the help of sign language, can choose from a handheld British Sign Language guide or the option of a British Sign Language tour.

The National Gallery secures second place for accessibility by visitors with hearing loss

The National Gallery emerges as the second-best cultural tourist spot for hearing loss accessibility, with an average score of 9.7 out of 10.

Its impressive Tripadvisor reviews highlight the lengths that the gallery’s curators have gone to in ensuring the venue accommodates those suffering from hearing loss.

The gallery has enforced a number of features in order to give hearing-impaired visitors the best experience possible, including British Sign Language-interpreted talks on paintings, hearing loops

in the Sainsbury Wing Theatre, Sainsbury Wing Exhibition cinema and Sunley Room cinema. Talks at the gallery are also often accompanied by live speech-to-text transcription supported by STAGETEXT.

British Museum ranks in third place for accessibility by hearing-impaired reviewers

Taking the final spot in the top three for the most accessible attraction for hearing-impaired visitors is The British Museum, with an average score of 9.2 out of 10 on Tripadvisor.

Hard of hearing guests visiting the museum can benefit from induction loops that are installed upon arrival at the ticket desk in the Great Court. There are also a selection of audio descriptive tracks that individuals can listen to on their own devices to help them navigate the museum at their own pace, as well as BSL guides and even a list of quieter areas to visit in the museum to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Most accessible theatres in the UK for people with hearing loss

A trip to the theatre should be an entertaining and enjoyable experience for everyone, including those experiencing hearing loss. But which theatres are doing the most to make sure performances are accessible to their hearing-impaired visitors?

Royal Exchange Theatre crowned the most accessible theatre in the UK

Taking the crown as the most accessible venue for avid theatre lovers to visit is Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, with a score of 49 out of 80.

The theatre has a wide range of accommodating features for visitors with hearing loss, including captioned performances that display the actors' dialogue on screens around the First Gallery Level.

Wireless hearing enhancements are also available to use in conjunction with hearing aids to improve sound quality, or for those communicating through sign language, there are also various signed performances with a British Sign Language interpreter for each production.

Crucible Theatre emerges as the second most accessible theatre in the UK

Securing the title as the UK’s second most accessible theatre is The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, with a score of 47.7 out of 80.

Providing a range of performances suited to hard of hearing visitors, The Crucible Theatre has the option of captioned performances that convert the dialogue and sound effects on stage into text displayed on a screen or British Sign Language interpreted performances.

Shakespere's Globe ranks as the third most accessible theatre in the UK

Shakespere’s Globe Theatre in London earns its place as the third most accessible in the UK, with a respectable 45.2 out of 80.

Hearing-impaired customers visiting the iconic theatre can choose a performance tailored to their specific needs, as Shakespere’s Globe offers British Sign Language interpreted performances, captioned performances, and even hearing enhancers from the welcome desk to be used in conjunction with the induction loop.

What can venues do to ensure they are accessible for visitors with hearing loss?

Hearing aid users or deaf members of the public spending significant amounts of money on tickets to popular tourist attractions deserve to get the very best from their experience. That’s why it is essential that UK venues provide the following accessible features that those with hearing loss are looking for before planning a visit or booking tickets. 

Induction loops -  Induction loops are an essential piece of technology to have installed within a venue, as they transfer required audio directly to users' hearing aids without any distracting background noise, allowing the wearer to hear a tour guide, performance, or recording more clearly. 

Speech-to-text - This type of technology is extremely helpful for hearing-impaired visitors at venues like theatres, as it allows speech to be converted straight into text and can be displayed on a screen alongside live performances.  

BSL (British Sign Language) - Ensure any video web content is available with accompanying BSL, and also make sure that your attraction has British Sign Language videos, guides and tours available at the venue. 

Trained staff - Staff members should have hearing loss awareness training or be trained in basic British Sign Language, this will reassure hearing-impaired visitors that not only are they understood but are in safe hands.  

Designated quiet areas and times - Allocating specific quiet areas - or suggesting quieter times to visit the attraction, such as weekdays during term-time - will allow hearing-impaired visitors to better tailor their visit to their requirements. 

Welcome assistance dogs - An Increasing number of people that are deaf rely on the use of a hearing dog, so it’s essential that you have a policy in place to accommodate them. 

Hearing aid technology means that quality of life no longer needs to be compromised

There is little doubt that hearing aids, their technology and additional resources such as wireless accessories make a huge improvement to the lives of those with hearing loss. But, when considering visits to museums, theatres, galleries and other leisure and entertainment venues, human behaviour can also significantly improve how we hear, reducing that level of listening effort. This can ultimately make the experience far less exhausting.

So if you are talking to someone with hearing loss during any kind of social situation, here are some tips on how your behaviour can help with their overall hearing quality and experience:

  • We all lip read, but don’t focus all attention on the lips - When speaking with someone, make sure they can clearly see your whole face. We don’t always consciously think we lip read but a significant proportion of speech communication is what we see with our eyes and everyone does it to an extent. It is a combination of mouth movement (lips, tongue and mouth), speech sounds, and facial expressions that enables us to put the puzzle of hearing conversation together.
  • Step into the light- Or, if you are sitting or standing with your back to a window or light source, suggest the individual with hearing loss change places, as the natural shadow will make it tricky to see your face clearly.
  • Focus on the conversation -  If you are having a conversation with someone with hearing loss, avoid turning away mid-speech or covering your mouth. Try not to be carrying out any other task, just simply enjoy the conversation and maintain face to face contact.
  • Maintain personal space - When conversing with someone with hearing loss, it’s important to maintain a natural distance apart so all of your face and facial expressions can be observed at the same time. 
  • Keep your hands down- If you talk in an animated way and use your hands and arms in a mad flurry to express yourself as you’re talking, try to calm it down. Erratic hands and arms can be a huge distraction, the listener’s natural response will be to focus on the arms waving around rather than the helpful visual cues.
  • Be natural - Don’t talk too slow or over exaggerate your mouth movements, just talk at a normal sound level and pace with natural facial expressions.
  • Stay patient -  It takes a lot of courage for someone with hearing loss to ask you to repeat yourself, don’t change what you said or how you said it if this occurs, just simply say it again. 

When conversing with someone suffering with a hearing impairment, it’s also vitally important never to brush them off not being able to hear or understand something with the comments “Never mind” or “It doesn’t matter”. It WILL 100% matter to the person in question, and can be an extremely hurtful comment to process. It can take a huge amount of bravery to summon the courage to strike up conversations with others, so try to stay understanding and patient at all times. 

  • Consider the problems associated with face masks - Understandably, during the past 2 years, for the hard of hearing and deaf community face masks have become a tricky obstacle to deal with. Not only do they hinder the lip reading process significantly, they also create a literal barrier to the speech sound level. 

There are however a couple of ways round this. Most manufacturers have some form of program setup that can be added to hearing aids that take into account the physics of face masks, and attempt to overcome the associated issues with specific settings. There are also many face masks available to purchase that feature a clear panel around the mouth area in order to make lip reading possible for those that rely on it for communication.

The introduction of a wireless accessory such as a remote mic can also help to combat the issues that arise alongside face masks, as they can beat both distance and sound barriers. For one-on-one situations, a mic can be clipped onto the clothing of the person those with hearing loss wish to speak to, so they can fully enjoy a conversation without the interruption of background noise.

Below, Katie Ogden, a HCPC registered hearing aid dispenser and the Training Manager of ReSound, offers up some expert insight on how the modern advancements in hearing aid technology can help those suffering with hearing loss when they visit busy tourist attractions and cultural spots:

“I would always encourage any hearing aid user to take advantage of the loop system when visiting any venue that offers it. However, on occasions where an attraction doesn’t have it, or their hearing aids aren’t compatible with the system, it’s worth having a wireless accessory on hand in order to make the most out of any audio experience. As well as helping to make some devices compatible with a telecoil loop system, they will also help the user to enjoy clearer speech during noisy performances with less listening effort.

“Did you know that hearing aids are most effective up to a range of about 1-1.5m, about the average distance we could expect to have a conversation with another person while respecting the unwritten rules of personal space? Anything longer than this and we can start to have difficulties in hearing the conversation as we know sound waves get smaller over distance, and this is where a wireless accessory (such as remote mic) can assist.

“Our remote mics, for example, have a direct line of sight distance of up to 25 metres. So effectively what we are doing is reducing the distance of 25m to just a few millimetres because the sound is being streamed from the remote mic directly to the hearing aids.

“Wireless accessories are part of an ecosystem designed to both complement and enhance the performance of hearing aids. Every hearing aid manufacturer will have a catalogue of these available, and we are conscious to ensure that our offerings are compatible with most of our products released over a time frame of several years across both the private and public sector.

“That’s right, even if you have a hearing aid from the NHS, and you think you may benefit from a wireless accessory, you can ask your NHS provider if your hearing aids are compatible with our state of the art technologies. For those wearing Danalogic hearing aids that have the 2.4 GHz bluetooth functionality, the likelihood is your hearing aid is compatible with our wireless accessories.”


Methodology and data sources:

Taking a seed list of 40 of the most visited cultural tourist attractions and theatres in the UK, we analysed multiple variables in order to identify the most accessible to those with hearing loss.

These variables were: TripAdvisor Score, Number of TripAdvisor reviews that mentioned Deaf, Hearing Impaired or BSL (British Sign Language), Induction Loop/ Sound Enhancements, Sensory Maps, Quiet Times, Quiet Areas, Sign Language Guides/ Tours/ Videos, Events for the hearing impaired.

We then ranked these factors out of 80 using normalisation ranking.


AccessAble | National History Museum | British Museum | The National Gallery | V&A Kensington | Science Museum | Royal Collection Trust | Canterbury Cathedral | National Galleries | Southbank Centre | Tate Britain | The British Library | Royal Academy of Arts | Historic Royal Palaces | Blenheim Palace | Warwick Castle | Durham Cathedral | York Minster | English Heritage | Eden Project | Roman Baths | Imperial War Museums | Science and Industry Museum | Chester Zoo | Railway Museum | Museum of Natural Museum | Wollaton Hall | Fitzwilliam Museum | Royal Albert Hall | St Paul's Cathedral | TripAdvisor | Accessibility Guides | The Culture Trip | National Theatre | Shakespear's Globe | Festival Theatre | Sheffield Theatres | Telegraph | London Coliseum | Lyric Theatre Belfast |