As this year’s summer travel season approaches, news of heightened airport security is making some people with hearing aids or cochlear implants nervous about what they may encounter as they go through TSA screening.
Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the current ban on laptops and tablets, including some E-readers, on international flights from mostly Muslim countries in the Mideast and Africa would be extended to flights from Europe as well. After a meeting in Brussels last week, EU and American officials decided against the ban, in part because of the danger from fires in the hold caused by lithium batteries.
But the proposed ban raised the issue of electronics and security once again. Travelers with hearing aids and cochlear implants should rest assured that these will not set off alarms as you go through security screening.
It’s best to wear your hearing aids, in fact, for several reasons. The first is that they will allow you to hear questions from the TSA agents, which is important. You may even be able to hear flight announcements. The second is that hearing aids or cochlear implants and their various assistive devices in your carry-on baggage might prompt a bag search simply based on the shape and metallic content.
The best thing is to tell the security desk that you are wearing a hearing aid or cochlear implant. If the alarm goes off as you go through the security gate, it’s probably because you forgot to take off your belt or left your keys in your pocket. If you are pulled aside, explain again that you have a hearing aid or cochlear implant.
On the plane itself, you may want to remove the aids if the plane is too loud. Noise-cancelling headphones can help cut the noise and may also allow you to enjoy the inflight entertainment, which the airline-provided earbuds would probably not. (Note to airlines: We’re still waiting for captions on in-flight entertainment!)
Don’t put your hearing equipment – or any other valuables or medications – in your checked bag. Bags are too easily lost in transit. Although the bag will probably eventually make it back to you, you want to have everything essential in your carry-on luggage.
If your hearing loss prevents you from hearing announcements in noisy airports, check off “disability” when you buy your ticket. Even if you specify that your disability is hearing loss, you may be met at the gate by a wheelchair. (This has actually happened to several friends of mine!)
But you will also be offered pre-boarding, which is definitely preferable to being caught in the scrum at the boarding gate as people wait to hear their zone called.
So wear your hearing aids, keep your valuables in your carry-on bag, and don’t forget your sense of humor!
For more on traveling with hearing aids and cochlear implants, see “Traveling with Chargers (and Hearing Aids).”
For more information on living with hearing loss, see my books on Amazon.com.