Summer and the holidays are often a time for domestic or foreign travel. What should you take into account when traveling with a child who uses a hearing aid or a cochlear implant?
Read the compiled tips and share your own.
What if the hearing aid goes missing?
The small child may lose the hearing aid/processor, and searching for the hearing aid on a crowded beach, or retracing your steps through the route you walked in town while feverishly looking for the device, isn’t the most relaxing thing to do on your holiday. In the worst-case scenario, the child won’t hear anything for the rest of the holiday if the hearing aid is not found. This is why it is a good idea to tape or otherwise fasten a contact phone number or email address to the device that might go missing.
What should you bring?
When traveling it is a good idea to pack sufficient batteries/a rechargeable battery and a battery charger, spare parts and if possible, spare hearing aids. The hospital may sometimes let you take the old devices home when changing hearing aids. If the child only has one cochlear implant, it is possible to ask for a spare processor when going away on a long trip. Regarding electrical appliances, you should check the type of local power sockets and bring along a power adapter if necessary.
Hearing aid user’s checklist
- enough batteries
- extra tubes
- vacuum pump desiccator
- drying capsules & drying jar /electrical dryer
- a possible replacement hearing aid
Cochlear implant user’s checklist
- patient ID card that mentions the cochlear implant
- possible spare processor
- spare cable and coil
- batteries and battery case
- battery charger and a travel power adapter if necessary
- remote control & charger
- drying capsules & drying jar/electrical dryer
- personal audio cable & the mains isolation cable
It is neither necessary nor recommended to take off hearing devices when going through the metal detector at the airport security check. The devices do not cause an alarm and it is always easier for the child if you can instruct them in such situations. During the flight the hearing aids may also stay on. The ears might become blocked, which prevents a child with more extensive hearing loss from hearing even if wearing the hearing aids. This is why it is a good idea to pack some chewing gum and offer it during take off/landing.
According to current instructions, the user of a cochlear implant can go through the airport security metal detector wearing the processors. It is not detrimental to the processor, although sound interference is a possibility. If necessary, a patient identification card can get you past the safety gates, and the security check will be performed manually.
Talking with a hearing-impaired child who is sitting in the backseat of a car can be challenging with the humming noise made by the car. You can use the background mirror as an aid to convey mouth movements, signs or cues to the backseat. If the child has an FM-device, it’s a good idea to use it in the car. The same help can be provided through the wire microphone that comes with the cochlear implant.
When listening to audiobooks or music, the voyage goes smoothly as long as the child has the suitable assistive devices to help with listening. With milder hearing loss ear buds can be used, but if hearing device amplification is also necessary, headphones fit better on top of the device. Various wireless loop systems that are used with mobile phones can be attached to any sound source and enable the child to listen at T-position. A child who uses a cochlear implant can attach the processor with suitable accessories directly to the source of the sound.
In some amusement parks the caretaker of a hearing-impaired child can get a special permit wristband to enter the rides if the child is in need of special support. The grown-up can then function as support, convey/interpret instructions and to make sure that the child can safely enjoy the activities provided by the park. With the wilder rides it may be a good idea to take off the hearing aids/processors, if there is a danger of the device falling out. At faster speeds the ear can also hit the side paddings of the seat, which will hurt if the device is in the ear. In such cases it is important to make sure that the child knows how to act if he or she does not hear the instructions without the hearing aids.
When moving around with a small child, parents often worry about the child getting lost/going missing. The child should be taught how to act if he or she gets lost from the parents. The family can agree on a suitable procedure, such as going back to the last place you talked, or to a specifically arranged meeting place. If the child is small and moves fast, a safety harness bag, with a tether, can be a good solution at least in crowds. You can also tape the child’s name and phone number into his or her clothes. You can buy ID bracelets and toddler ID made specifically for this purpose, which enable the adult who finds the child to call the phone number provided.
Water is an essential part of the summer; water fights, surprise summer rain showers, and the beach life. Getting wet is inevitable and the child shouldn’t need to avoid it either. It the child can hear without the device, it may be best to leave the hearing aid on the shelf during the wildest water play. For many the hearing aid is indispensable, in which case a tube scarf or a cap can offer some protection against humidity.
The Cochlear processors are splash-proof when used with rechargeable batteries. The batteries need air to operate, for which reason the battery case has air holes, and therefore it is not watertight. The Cochlear “five” has made waterproof bags available, using which the child can even dive while wearing the processors. You can use a swim cap or a scarf to help keep the processors on.
In case the hearing aid does get wet, it should be dismantled and put in a dryer. There are many kinds of driers and most of the time the hospital provides these with the hearing aid. The most common model is a drying jar, where the device is placed with a moisture absorbing dehydrating capsule. Those who use a cochlear implant are often given an electrical dryer, which is recommended for regular use since it absorbs moisture and therefore extends the hearing aid’s working life. It’s also worthwhile to use the dryer daily when traveling in humid countries. Then you should use rechargeable batteries rather than batteries, due to the waterproofing.
If the hearing aid stops working, contact the hearing centre or in the case of an emergency, the hearing aid manufacturer’s wholesaler. Lip-reading, signs or cues are a good support if the device goes missing or gets broken.
Summer is also the ideal time for building your vocabulary as you encounter new things and phenomena. Accept the one hundred words/signs challenge!