Flying with hearing loss: some simple tips for a smooth journey
It’s that time of the year here in the UK when the kids start to break up from school and families head off on holiday.
And as several of my clients have been asking me questions about going through airport security with hearing aids or implants, and using technology on the plane, now seems like a good time for some top tips for flying with hearing loss.
Saving stress with the internet
Catching a flight can be super-stressful at the best of times. What with finishing up work, packing at the last minute and getting up at stupid o’clock to catch the flight it’s no wonder we need to lay on a beach for two weeks.
So, if your airline allows you to do so, check in online the day before you fly. That means all you have to worry about is checking in your baggage when you get to the airport. Subscribe to any alerts or app from your airline which can provide instant updates on things such as any flight time changes or gate switches.
Getting help at the airport and on the flight
Some people with hearing loss ask for extra help at the airport or on the flight. What that involves depends on the airline, but could, for example, mean being able to board early and explain to the flight crew that you won’t be able to hear their announcements. Be warned - some airlines simply list us deafies as ‘disabled’ which means you may find yourself in the strange position of being met by assistance with a wheelchair at your destination!
Preparing for security
Hearing aids rarely set off the scanners, and even my titanium implant for my bone anchored hearing aid passed without a beep. But cochlear implant wearers are advised to remove their processor. Some people choose not to wear their hearing aids as they pass through security, but I always wear mine. I want to know if I beep as I pass through the scanners, and also to hear if I’m challenged by security. If you do get called back to be scanned by hand or patted down, point out that you have aids, and also explain if you need the security officer to face you when they are issuing instructions.
The same applies if your carry-on luggage is chosen for extra screening. Tell the security officer that you can’t hear well, and if you haven’t heard the question ask them to repeat it, rather than just nod and say yes. Now is not the time to be making assumptions about what you heard!
As our hearing aids simply receive information and do not transmit it we are allowed to wear them throughout the flight if we want to. I tend to listen to the safety briefing and then take mine out as the sound of the engines on take-off can be uncomfortable, and I find it hard to hear people speaking over the drone of the engines during the flight even with aids in.
As far as other hearing technology is concerned Phonak, Oticon and other manufacturers do not advise using the Roger Pen or other transmitting/streaming technology during flights. This is because it is considered a transmitting device and so falls into the same category as mobile phones.
Keep calm and enjoy the flight
And finally, don’t worry about any ear discomfort during flying. Although air pressure changes, especially on the descent, can be unpleasant they’re not affecting your ear canal, but the space behind your ear drum. Moving your jaw around or chewing sweets or gum will help equalise the pressure (is anyone else old enough to remember when sweets were handed out as the plane started to descend?).
All that’s left is to say is, whatever foreign climes you’re heading to, enjoy your flight!