If you’re a hearing implant user, a missing item can have far greater consequences than simply leaving your swimming goggles or notebook at home. Here’s everything you need to know for a hassle-free trip.
How can I make sure I don’t run out of battery power?
Florian Feichtner, Head of Clinical Support at MED-EL in Innsbruck, Austria, explains: “MED-EL’s rechargeable batteries are designed to work with different mains around the world, so you don’t need to take a separate power converter. However, don’t forget the plug adapters, which come with your kit.”
If you’re worried about a lack of a reliable power source, you could also take a portable charger, which can be attached to your rechargeable battery by the USB cable provided. And if you have access to a car, this could be used via the car’s integrated USB port, or with an adapter connected to the car’s cigarette lighter
“Alternatively, you could use disposable batteries – pack more than you think you will need, in case of unforeseen delays,” adds Feichtner.
What if something goes wrong?
It’s also advisable to take spare parts. “Many MED-EL offices offer holiday or loaner kits, which consist of a complete back-up audio processor,” says Feichtner. And be sure to check in advance where the nearest hospital with an ENT department will be, so you can get help quickly in an emergency.
Do different countries have specific regulations for hearing implants or batteries?
As a precaution, you may want to check in advance with the airline in case of specific regulations for hearing implants or batteries.
For instance, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the USA stipulates that any batteries or battery chargers that contain lithium can only be taken on to the plane in carry-on luggage and not packed in the hold unless they are in an electronic device. This is because of a potential fire risk, which would be more difficult to contain in the hold.
However, Florian Feichtner is keen to emphasise: “Many people with hearing implants fly regularly without any issues or problems so there’s really no need to be too concerned.”
Should I keep everything to do with my implant in my hand baggage?
Absolutely, according to Feichtner: “This means you have everything important to hand and if your main luggage is delayed or lost, you will still be able to hear.”
Do I need to remove my audio processors before going through the airport’s metal detector?
“There’s no reason that you can’t walk through the metal detector wearing your audio processors as it will not damage them, though you may hear a slight buzzing noise as you go through due to electromagnetic interference. There’s only a very small chance that the alarm will go off, though the processor and implant will show up if you pass through the body scanner,” explains Feichtner. “To ensure the airport staff understand about your implant, show them your patient identification card and explain that it’s a hearing device.” And don’t worry if security needs to use a handheld wand to screen the audio processors – it will beep when it passes over them but it won’t harm them or the implant.
Remember to inform the staff that you won’t be able to hear If you do take your audio processors off. Ideally, avoid letting the audio processors go through x-ray scanning equipment as there is a small chance that it could damage the microphones. You can ask for them to be hand-checked instead. If they do go through the scanner, make sure that they are in a static-free container such as a fabric bag to avoid potential damage by static electricity.
Do the audio processors need to be switched off for take-off and landing?
“Both the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and FAA safety guidelines recommend that airlines allow audio processors to remain switched on during all phases of the flight, including take-off and landing, but we recommend checking this first with the individual airline as policies may vary,” advises Feichtner. However, if you do switch off your audio processors at any stage of the flight, inform the staff that you won’t be able to hear in case there are any important safety announcements.
Who should I tell about my hearing implants?
It’s advisable to let your hotel staff know in case of emergencies such as a fire. Ask in advance if the hotel has rooms with equipment for hearing-impaired people, such as visual fire alarms and vibrating alarm clocks.
“And, as previously mentioned, tell the airport staff and flight attendants if you decide to remove or turn off your audio processor when going through airport security or during your flight in case of important information,” says Feichtner.
If you’re worried about missing vital flight information, sign up in advance with the airline for mobile phone text alerts for delays, gate changes or boarding calls. And look out for the telecoil symbol, indicating that the area is fitted with a hearing loop, which blocks out background noise, making it easier to hear in busy environments such as airports.
Will I be able to listen to the plane‘s film and music channels?
You can use one of your direct audio input cables to connect your audio processor to the in-flight entertainment system, using the 3.5mm audio jack. There’s a choice of two cables, depending on how much microphone input you want from your immediate surroundings. “Sometimes an adapter is required to connect a 3.5mm audio jack cable,” says Feichtner.
Could different environments affect how well my audio processors work?
MED-EL’s audio processors are designed to work in many different environments, and the SONNET in particular is well protected from both dust and moisture. That said, humidity is usually the greatest challenge because exposure to moisture, including sweat, can affect how well an audio processor works. As a result, it‘s important to make sure that you use your drying and storing kit every night and that you follow the basic care instructions to the letter.
Also, be careful never to leave your audio processors in direct sunlight and try to avoid exposing them to extreme temperatures. “Very low temperatures might affect the battery life but this is only usually the case in extreme conditions,” adds Feichtner.
CHECKLIST for your trip
Making a checklist will mean that you’re less likely to forget something vital. Besides the audio processors you are already wearing, this should include the following:
- Patient identification card for your hearing implant
- Remote control
- Extra battery and charger
- More than enough disposable batteries for your trip
- Extra coil cable
- Audio processor tester
- Drying system
- Cleaning brush
- Telecoil accessory
- Contact details of the nearest hospital with an ENT department
- A printed or digital copy of your audio processor’s settings (in case you need to consult an audiologist)
- A vibrating alarm clock if you’re travelling alone
- WaterWear waterproof audio processor cover if you’re likely to be doing any water-based activities. For more information, visit MED-EL.