Air Travel Tips For People With Hearing Loss
Flying can be a stressful experience, with or without hearing loss. Whether you’re off on an overseas adventure or visiting family members on the other side of the country, it can be helpful to remember a few things when travelling with hearing loss. We’ve gathered some of the best travel tips to make the journey to your destination as easy as possible.
Imagine the following scenario: It’s the evening before a long-anticipated holiday and as you’re packing your bags, you hear your spouse calling your name from downstairs. It sounds like they’re asking: “Where’s the mop!?” Slightly irritated, you think to yourself, tonight of all nights you want to start doing chores? But they’re already popping in the room, repeating the question: “Do you want the blue top?”
Sounds familiar? It’s exactly the kind of interaction that worries Attune audiologist Heba every day, especially when she travels. What if she misses the call for her plane? What if her hearing loss causes her to misunderstand customs officers at arrival? What if she can’t hear announcements on the plane?
In the past, Heba’s hearing loss has caused her a lot of sleepless nights – especially when travelling or before she got her hearing aids. But over time, she has managed to adapt and perfect the art of travelling with hearing loss and hearing aids. Today, she’s sharing her insights and useful tricks regarding travelling with hearing loss with you!
Preparing for the Trip
“You can never guarantee you’ll be the smartest person in the room, but there is no excuse for not being the most prepared.” – Brendan Paddick
Packing is quite literally the first step on your journey. Everything you need must be accounted for and it doesn’t hurt to have a little cheat-sheet on hand. To avoid dealing with a great amount of stress as you’re attempting to procure the correctly sized batteries for your hearing aids in a country whose language you do not speak, make sure to pack the following:
- Bring noise-cancelling earphones to block out unwanted sounds
- Replacement batteries for your hearing aids
- Charging station and charger cable for rechargeable devices
- The proper converters for your rechargeable hearing aids if travelling overseas
- A dehumidifier to dry out the moisture from the devices
- Cleaning tools & replacement accessories
- Hearing aid storage box or a portable case
At the Airport
Hearing loss symptoms are hard to ignore whenever you’re talking to a flight attendant, cafe waitress or check-in officer. To avoid confusion, always let your conversation partners know that you are hard of hearing.
To give herself an edge, Heba ensures she has her glasses on. She swears it helps her hear people better. Yes, you’re not missing reading this. “By watching a person while they are speaking, I can fill in what my ears miss. The movements of their mouth and facial expression give so much information”, explains the audiologist.
“It’s like my hearing loss symptoms fade away and I am able to capture more of the conversation”, she adds. The combination of having both light and sound, allows our brains to combine what we see and what we hear to paint a more accurate picture of the conversation.
This technique got Heba out of trouble when an officer asked her “So you’re off to LA?” and she heard “So you need to pay?”. By looking at his face, she could correct what she had heard, overcoming her hearing loss. After all, who needs to pay twice for their tickets?
Will my hearing aids set off metal detectors at the terminal?
Hearing aids are safe to stay in your ears when going through airport metal detectors. It’s also reassuring to note, that they are safe in x-ray machines, too – if you happen to have placed them in your checked or carry-on luggage.
On the Airplane
Keep your ears on-air, when you’re in the air
Keep your hearing aids with you when you fly, either in your ears or carry on luggage. Heba avoids having them in the checked luggage. The thought of losing her hearing aids makes her stomach churn!
This is where travel insurance can come in handy – and give you peace of mind. But make sure to specify your hearing condition in your travel insurance policy and check that you’re covered for the loss, damage and theft of your hearing aids. It’s better to be safe rather than sorry.
You will also be happy to know that hearing aid batteries, both disposable and rechargeable ones, are safe to go in both checked luggage and in your carry on. Make sure to have those extra batteries or charging units accessible, so you can place them in the x-ray scanning trays – just as would your mobile or electrical device.
You might need those extra batteries on a long-haul flight. Your hearing aids can easily run out of battery because the cabin pressure changes the usual lifespan of the batteries. So there’s another reason to have a few spares on board to avoid experiencing any hearing loss symptoms.
Noise-cancelling headphones on the plane
Headphones provide Heba’s husband with the ‘peace he needs to sleep’. Depending on the type of person you are when you travel, you may benefit from either using a hearing device or noise-cancelling headphones.
Ears under Pressure
Heba has the answer to another hearing loss mystery: Why do our ears feel blocked on aeroplanes and cause hearing loss symptoms? The audiologist explains that the middle section of the ear, behind the eardrum, is filled with air and this allows the eardrum to vibrate and produce sound.
Connecting to the middle ear is a tube, called the Eustachian tube, which allows for airflow, equalising the pressure in the ear. Whilst on a plane, the cabin pressure changes quickly during take-off and descent. The Eustachian tube is sometimes not able to open quickly enough, resulting in a feeling of blockage and even causing hearing loss symptoms.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Top tips to equalise ears and relieve hearing loss symptoms
- Chew, chew, chew! Chewing gum, lollies or even yawning can unblock the ears and reduce hearing loss symptoms.
- Pop your ears: Hold your nose and blow gently! Hearing loss symptoms can be alleviated as air moves through the eustachian tube and equalises the ear pressure.
- Spray your nose! The sinus is connected to the eustachian tube, keeping the ear moist and allowing the ear to equalise.
- Give fitted earplugs ago! If the top three tips don’t help to relieve the hearing loss symptoms, you can try using filtered earplugs to help control the changes in cabin pressure.
Use your hearing aids
“I tell all of my friends with hearing loss to use their hearing aids when they travel. Hearing aids can ease the stress and anxiety associated with not being able to communicate confidently” Heba concludes. “At the end of the day, I won’t allow my hearing loss to get in the way of me having a great holiday.”
These tips and tricks allow Heba to enjoy her overseas trips and with the help of your trusted audiologist, you too can make sure your hearing loss symptoms become less and less apparent.
Hearing difficulties are often hard to spot. Many people will not even be aware of the fact that they’re suffering from hearing loss. Talk to your audiologist or GP about your experience and schedule a diagnostic hearing test today.