By Angie Aspinall
If, like me, you use hearing aids, there are a few extra things to consider when packing for and undertaking a trip by plane. Here are my top tips to help you plan a successful trip.
1. Booking your flight and checking in
Airports are often noisy places with high ceilings and lots of hard surfaces, which make background noise seem overly loud, making it difficult for some hearing aid users to focus on one voice e.g. at the Check-in desk. PA announcements may also be difficult to hear.
If you require assistance at the airport and during the flight, it’s best to notify the airline company when you make your booking. Assistance may be available at check-in, security and for getting you to your Gate, as well as on-board. Many airlines also offer check-in online which may be a less stressful and more convenient option.
2. At the airport
If you have booked assistance at the airport, locate the Assistance Desk on arrival. There is likely to be a designated waiting area for you to use after checking-in.
Some airports have PA systems which include loop facilities, which should be clearly signed. If you have a Telecoil in your hearing aid, position yourself near the loop sign and switch the aid to the ‘T’ setting to hear announcements via the loop.
3. Can you wear your hearing aids whilst going through security?
Yes. Hearing aids shouldn’t normally set off a metal detector or x-ray machine at airport security. If the alarm sounds, security staff may give you a manual screening (which is usually a quick scan with a handheld metal detector to pinpoint the source of the alarm activation. If this happens, it’s a good idea to explain that you have hearing aids so they can eliminate that as a source, but also so they understand that communication needs to be clear.
Remember that they’ll screen hundreds of people every day; you’re highly unlikely to be the first person they’ve met who wears hearing aids!
4. Will the metal detector at the airport damage my hearing aid batteries?
“There’s nothing to worry about when it comes to hearing aid batteries passing through the various airport security scans – none of them will impact upon the performance of the batteries,” explains Paul Deeble, Rayovac’s Technical Liaison Manager.
5. Should hearing aid batteries go in hand luggage or hold luggage?
Rayovac hearing aid batteries are safe to go in both hand and in hold luggage.
“However, it is worth noting that a long haul flight may slightly affect the life of a battery that is in a device,” says Paul. “This is due to the dry nature of a cabin and any battery life loss may be more noticeable to wearers of cochlear devices or aids that take size 10 batteries.”
Paul continues: “For this reason, I would advise that you take spare batteries in their original packaging in your hand luggage if you don’t want to risk losing power on your device during a long flight. Short haul flights should make little or no difference to the life of your batteries.”
I always carry spare batteries in my hand luggage, because in the event of my suitcase being lost, I don’t want to be without enough spares to see me through the entire trip. Similarly, I pack a full set of batteries in my hold luggage in case I lose my hand luggage.
I keep all batteries in their original packaging to keep them safe. Those in my hand luggage, I have in an easily accessible place, so that I can pop them in the tray to go through the X-ray machine with my mobile phone and any other electronic devices.
6. On the plane
Hearing aids can be used during take-off and landing, but if you have Bluetooth wireless hearing aids, you will need to put them into flight safe mode. Make sure you’re familiar with how to do this – your hearing aid instruction manual will show you how.
Tell a member of the cabin crew if your hearing difficulties mean that you will need to be notified in person of any in-flight announcements or safety information.
Some people may be happy to keep their hearing aids on to keep abreast of any announcements, but if you find aeroplane travel too noisy and prefer to remove your hearing aids, tell a member of the crew that you will need a visual cue for communication. Some hearing aids have programmes which can reduce background noise. If you’d like to learn more about this, talk to your audiologist in advance of your trip.
“If you do remove your hearing aids, it’s always a good idea to switch them off to preserve battery life,” Paul advises.
Some airlines have captioning on their safety videos. If this is not available, ask for an illustrated safety card.
Remember to keep replacement batteries to hand during the flight, just in case.
7. In-flight entertainment
If in-flight entertainment is important to you, check with the airline what provision is available prior to booking. Some flights show movies which are captioned for deaf people/people with hearing loss, and some offer neck loops which are compatible with Telecoils, but it’s best to check before booking.
8. Top tips for air travel with hearing aid batteries
• All Rayovac hearing aid batteries are zinc-air and safe to pack in hold luggage. They are not subject to the same stringent rules as lithium batteries, so carrying spares for personal use isn’t an issue.
• Always check with your airline what their rules are for allowable hand or hold luggage to confirm that hearing aid batteries are permitted.
• Pack your batteries carefully to avoid them being crushed or punctured and keep them away from metal objects such as coins, keys, and jewellery. If batteries touch each other, or other metal objects, they may short-circuit due to a large amount of energy surging in a short period of time, which can cause the batteries to stop working.
Paul Deeble warns: “Never keep batteries loose in your pocket or bag. Ideally, keep them in their original packaging or use a special, purpose-made hearing aid battery holder, such as one of Rayovac’s battery caddies."
We have worked hard to ensure that this information is accurate and up to date, but it is best to check with the airline before traveling!