Taking a Vacation with Your Hearing Aids
It may come as a surprise, but wearing hearing aids can actually make travel less difficult, not more so. Instead of struggling to hear announcements in public transportation terminals or when listening to guides while on a tour, you can use their advanced technology to help you hear even better than normal-hearing tourists in similar situations. However, you do need to protect and maintain your hearing aids while traveling, so that they can continue to perform well throughout your vacation.
Before you leave town…
Bring whatever you might need to keep your hearing aids in good repair and that includes batteries. It is a good idea to bring more than you think you’ll need for the trip, just in case you experience unexpected delays or a change in plans.
Here are some suggestions to pack in your hearing aid travel kit. Note: your specific needs might vary depending on the style of hearing aids you wear, so ask your hearing care professional for personalized suggestions:
- Replacement batteries, or charger if your hearing aids use rechargeable batteries
- Spare receivers, wax filters, and domes or tips
- Protective accessories, like a securing clip, headband, or waterproof covering
- Hearing aid dryer (box style or electronic)
- Cleaning equipment, such as a brush or cloth
- Name/number of your hearing care professional, in case of emergency
- Storage case
The following additional take-along suggestions are unrelated to hearing aid maintenance, but still useful to have:
- A cell phone you know is compatible with your hearing aids
- Hearing aid remote control accessory (or app, if available)
- Wireless Bluetooth®-compatible accessories for connecting your hearing aids to other high-tech devices, FM and/or loop systems
- Portable alarm that uses vibration or light so you don’t miss any departures or reservation deadlines
If you’re traveling by airplane, we suggest you pack all of the above in a case approved for carryon, if only to avoid the headache of an airline losing this important baggage.
Speaking of air travel…
It’s possible in some airports that your hearing aids may set off the metal detectors. Don’t panic, though — you can let the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent know in advance that you’re wearing hearing aids either verbally or by using a downloadable TSA Notification Card. It’s also a good idea to let the TSA agent know how best to communicate with you as you go through the security process. Whether you choose to remove your hearing aids and send them through the luggage screener or wear them through the full-body scanner, they will not be damaged. However, if they set off an alarm, you should expect to undergo an additional pat-down, “wanding”, or manual inspection of your hearing aids. It’s a good idea to assume this security delay might happen, and add plenty of time between when you arrive at the airport and when your flight is scheduled to depart.
Once you’ve boarded, you should be aware that according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines hearing aids are exempt from the “turn off all electronic devices” requirement. Like pacemakers and similar medical devices, they don’t give off signals that the FAA considers problematic, such as cell phone transmissions. If you want some peace and quiet on your flight you may want to turn your hearing aids off, but make sure you wait until after the preflight safety briefing is complete. If you’re traveling with someone else, you may want to tell them to alert you to any announcements during or at the end of the flight, so you know to turn your hearing aids back on.
While you’re away…
Chances are you’re going to wind up using public transportation at some point during your trip. There isn’t much more stressful than being in a strange subway, train, or bus station and hearing an announcement come over the PA system that you can barely understand. Is there a delay? Did the platform change? Hard to tell when even travelers with normal hearing can only understand every other word!
If you wear hearing aids, you may actually have an advantage, assuming they are equipped with a telecoil (“T-coil”). An increasing number of public transportation hubs are adding induction (hearing) loops, which means simply setting your hearing aids to the “T” setting will allow you to stream speech directly from the PA system into your ears. Rather than straining to hear through outdated, static-riddled speakers over noisy crowds, you can hear clear announcements directly through your hearing aids.
This advantage extends beyond mass transit. Other venues that may have induction (hearing) loops include:
- Concert halls
- Sports arenas
- Bank and food drive-thru
- Museums and tourist centers
- Houses of worship
As you can see, traveling with hearing aids can be a breeze with a little preparation and research. So, pack your bags, put on your hearing aids, and enjoy your vacation!
Dr. Leanne Powers is an Education Specialist for Sivantos, Inc. (formerly Siemens Hearing Instruments) customers as well as staff on products, software, and services. In this role, Leanne has given several lectures at AudiologyNOW! and various state conventions on a variety of topics, including compression in modern hearing instruments, frequency compression, and tinnitus therapy, as well as presentations specific to Siemens hearing aid technology. Leanne practiced in a variety of hearing healthcare settings for 16 years prior to joining the Sivantos team. Most recently she operated two hearing aid offices in the Chicagoland area. Leanne received her undergraduate degree from Northern Illinois University, her graduate degree from RUSH University in Chicago, and her doctorate from A.T. Still University of Health Sciences in Arizona.