I travel a lot, and I know all the problems — big and small — that can occur when you need to bring myriad devices to help you hear. From annoyances like forgetting to pack backup batteries to major challenges like losing a crucial component of a cochlear implant when it falls off in parking garage and crucial parts disappear, I’ve learned to make a detailed checklist of the things I need to pack.
So if you’re one of the millions of Americans who wear hearing aids, or those who have a cochlear implant, here is some hard-earned travel advice for that upcoming trip.
Keep all your hearing equipment in one bag, a carry-on if you’re flying. Checked bags can be lost. All your hearing stuff, as well as medications and irreplaceable valuables, should also go in your carry-on. The hearing equipment, plus chargers, can be bulky and heavy, so you might want to consider a backpack or a rolling carry-on. I put each charger in a separate zipper baggie to prevent the wires from tangling. I also put the devices themselves in baggies, in case something spills in my bag.
Think spares and extras. If you wear a hearing aid, bring along a backup if you have one (an older hearing aid will do). Include batteries, wax guards, and the brush and wire you use for cleaning the hearing aid.
Bring backup for your cochlear implant. You’ll need a spare (again, an older model will suffice), and spares for each of the many components: the ear hook, the T-mic, the cable, and the headpiece. If you lose any one of these, they can not be easily replaced at the local drugstore. You have to notify the manufacturer, who will send a replacement, but it could take days to get it, especially over a weekend or holiday.
Cochlear implants use rechargeable batteries, so don’t forget the charger and, of course, batteries (at least three). You also should have a dehumidifier storage case for the implant, and a small travel carrying case that you can pop the implant into if you find yourself in a very humid place or caught in the rain.
Sweat is not good for hearing aids, so the carrying case may be handy on the tennis court or golf course as well. And of course you’ll need to take the c.i. off when swimming, unless it’s one of the waterproof models.
Going to the beach? Sand is lethal to hearing aids, so make sure they’re either covered by a hat or left at home. Saltwater will also destroy them.
Bring your assistive listening devices (ALDs). An FM system includes a transmitter and receiver, and a charger for each. You can’t use any one of these four components without the other three, so make sure you have the whole set. This is also true for the increasingly popular Roger Pen (transmitter, receiver, and two chargers).
Pack a Bluetooth (I use the ComPilot) to pair with your cell phone. If you usually use a captioned phone at home, you want to be sure your cell phone is as hearing friendly as possible while you are away. This includes remembering to switch on your telecoil before you use the phone. A ComPilot will also allow you to hear recorded books or music on your smart phone. Each hearing aid manufacturer has its own branded Bluetooth transceivers (receiver and transmitter in one piece). Don’t forget the charger!
A power strip! You’ll need it for all those chargers. It also will come in handy for charging your phone, tablet, e-reader and laptop. (The photo is of my bedside table on an overseas trip.)
Going abroad? Bring an adapter. You’ll need it to plug in the power strip to recharge your hearing devices and other electronics. And make sure it’s the correct one for the country you’re visiting. If you forget to bring one, hotels often can lend lend you one. You can also buy them in airports.
Wear your hearing aid and cochlear implant. That’s the easiest way not to leave them behind. Neither device will set off alarms at airport security, and both will allow you to hear questions from the TSA agent and possibly even announcements at the departure gate. Airports are noisy, however, so don’t expect to be able to hear flight announcements. Ask the gate attendant to tell you when your zone is boarding (you’ll probably be offered pre-boarding). During the flight, your own over-the-ear headphones will allow you to hear the in-flight entertainment without having to take off your hearing aid, as you would with the airlines’ free headphones.
Make a checklist. List everything you need — devices, chargers, batteries, chargers, cleaning equipment and instruction manuals — and then check off the list as you pack. It not only will reduce stress, but it also will reduce the chance that you leave something important behind.
Don’t forget your sense of humor! As you can see, there’s ample opportunity for things to go awry.