Updated: Aug 23
It is summer time and I receive this question from a few of my patients, "... going to be flying for the first time since getting hearing aids and a little bit nervous. Any tips tricks, or advice?" Here is a list of questions and answers that would help you understand how to manage your flight when using hearing aids.
Many people keep their hearing aids on while passing through the security check at the airport, during the taxi, take off, and landing. Others may take off their hearing aids before the flight takes off to have a quieter moment than listening to the loud noises of the aeroplane engines. There is no right or wrong method, just a few points to keep in mind. The fitting of your hearing aid especially the little silicon dome that goes in the ear canal plays a role here. Go through the following Q&A to learn more about what to consider when taking your hearing aids up on a flight.
Do I need to inform the land crew of the airline that I am a hearing aid user?
When at the airport at the check-in desk you can inform the airline that you use hearing aids. Some airlines have a section for online checking-in that asks for any disability. You could do it online too. This is critical for those with severe to profound hearing loss who might have problems hearing the announcements in the transit room or on the flight in case of losing hearing aids or any reason that the hearing aids are not working. By the IATA's guidelines, the check-in desk needs to offer you a seat that is more visible and kind of under the supervision of the flight attendants. Also at the time of boarding, they need to board you first as hearing loss is indeed a disability.
Do I get a flight assistant if I am deaf checking in on a flight?
Not all airlines do that, but your seat may be changed to allow better access for the flight crew in case you need them or they need to communicate any emergency to you.
Do hearing aids reduce flight noise?
Not all hearing aids offer noise reduction, so best to speak to your audiologist if you do a lot of air travel (e.g. on business trips) and noise cancellation is an important feature of your hearing aids. The other point is that in order for noise reduction of the hearing aids to work properly they need to be fitted with power domes (similar to iPod fittings that completely seal your ear canal). The power domes or fully closed fitting work best for patients with severe to profound hearing loss. So from a technical point, this may not be technically possible for your level of hearing loss if your loss is only mild to moderate.
Should I remove my hearing aids during the flight?
Problems may arise depending on the fitting of your hearing aids. If your hearing aids are fitted with an open dome, changes in cabin pressure would be easily transferred to the space between your eardrum and the dome. The same will happen in the case of IIC/CIC/ITC/ITE hearing aids with proper vent size. In such a case wearing hearing aids is quite transparent to the changes in the cabin pressure.
If your hearing aids are fitted with power domes e.g. RIC with power dome fitting or a custom-made ITE/ITC or IIC/CIC with no vent or a vent that’s blocked, then the changes in the cabin pressure might be transferred to your eardrum which may cause discomfort.
My best advice is that right at the time of the taxi, remove your hearing aids from your ears and put them back when taking off or landing is done and cabin pressure got to an equalised state. If your hearing aids use an open dome or your custom-made aids have a good size vent and you’re confident that they are open then it’d be safe to keep them on all the time.
Should I remove my hearing aids passing through the security check at the airport?
No, you don't need to remove your hearing aids passing through the security check at the airport.
Should I switch off my hearing aids during the taxi or during the flight?
No, the magnetic wave emitted from your hearing aids is much less than the recommended by IATA. Also from a passenger's safety point of view, it is essential that the passenger with hearing loss is informed of the instructions of the flight crew at all times during the flight.
I have difficulty hearing announcements at the airport, what should I do?
From the IATA point of view hearing loss is considered a disability. At the airport inform the check-in desk so they offer you a seat that is more visible to the flight crew where you can also see them. At the time of boarding, you can also inform the flight crew so they board you earlier than the rest. Don't hesitate to ask the flight crew about the announcements if you are concerned with the condition of the flight.