By Louisa Liang, Au.D.
The holiday season is upon us and for many that means traveling to see family or friends. Travel is exciting and fun, but if you have hearing aids or cochlear implants, you may benefit from some information and tips.
Patients ask Dr. Ullauri and me two questions regarding flying with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
The TSA special procedures guidelines say the following:
“If a passenger who is deaf or hard of hearing uses hearing aids or a cochlear implant, he or she can be screened without removing the device. Additional screening, including a pat-down or inspection of a device, may be required if it alarms a walk-through metal detector or appears as an anomaly when screened by imaging technology. Devices may also be subject to additional screening if they are X-rayed as part of the passenger’s carry-on bags.”
Going through the metal detectors or having a pat-down will not harm your devices. The devices being scanned by the x-ray machine on the belt will not alter or change the devices. If you do put them (for example, your back-up devices) through the x-ray machine, make sure that the hearing aid or cochlear implant is turned off by detaching or removing the batteries. Otherwise, the best solution is to keep them on your ears because it will allow you to hear important information throughout the airport regarding flight information, gate changes, boarding calls, etc.
First, wearing the devices on the flight will allow you to hear the announcements and updates given by the flight attendants. Most hearing aids and cochlear implant devices have background noise management systems that will reduce some of the airplane engine noise so that it is at a comfortable level. Remember that the normal hearing passengers also hear the airplane engine noise.
Second, when the flight attendants request that all electronic devices be turned off, this does not apply to hearing aids or cochlear implants. These devices will not interfere with the pilot’s flight signals in any way.
One special caveat to this are Made for iPhone hearing aids. These special models of hearing aids communicate to the iPhone by radiating radio signals. For these specific types of hearing aids, you should turn them into flight mode to stop the radio signals and of course, turn your iPhone onto airplane mode. Contact your audiologist regarding the instructions on how to turn your hearing aids into flight mode.
Additionally, below are 5 tips for traveling with hearing aids and cochlear implants:
Bring lots of extra batteries and keep them in a carry-on bag rather than your check-in luggage. The TSA recommends bringing all batteries in carry-on bags rather than check-in bags. If you have rechargeable devices that require a charger, bring the charger and a correct plug converter for the country where you are going.
Although most hearing aids now are dust proof and water resistant for up to 30 min in 3 feet of standing water, it is still a good idea to keep them as dry as possible. You can purchase dry aid jars or dehumidifiers from your audiologist specifically for your hearing aids. This is especially important if you are traveling to a humid destination or plan on participating in some water activities. Reducing the moisture in the hearing aid is essential to caring for the electronics in the hearing aid. If your dehumidifier plugs into a wall, make sure you have the correct converter for the country where you are traveling.
Cochlear implant processors have special accessories that allow you to wear your device in water, such as swimming or kayaking. Contact your audiologist to find out what accessories are available to you before going on your trip.
This will be handy to store your devices in a safe location rather than just keeping them in your purse or pocket. Hearing aids are quite small these days so they are easily lost if not stored properly.
Over-the-ear headphones will allow you to listen to music or in-flight entertainment with your hearing aids or cochlear implants. The ear bud headphones will have reduced sound quality since they won’t have the benefit of amplification from your devices. Make sure the microphones of the hearing aids or cochlear implants are enclosed within the over the ear headphones for best sound quality.
In this digital age, our boarding passes can be stored on apps on our cell phones and hotel itineraries are sent to our e-mails. It is also a good idea to turn on flight alerts via text and email to keep up to date with any flight changes. Downloading the airline’s app to your phone will give you additional information such as your departure and arrival terminal, boarding gate number, baggage claim carousel number, and any other travel changes or weather alerts. Some apps even track your checked-in baggage. With all this information on your phones, make sure your phone charger is kept in your carry-on bag. Of course, it is still a good idea to have a printed hard copy of your flight, hotel, and car reservation handy. This will prevent any communication issues or misunderstanding during your travels.