Many questions come up involving travel with a cochlear implant. As of January 1, 2008, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) adopted regulations for passengers traveling with lithium batteries. Any number of spare lithium batteries are allowed in carry-on baggage.
The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has confirmed that cochlear implant recipients are exempt from powering off their sound processors when instructions are given to turn off cell phones while in flight. The FAA regards a CI in the Hearing Aid category and does not have to be turned off.
Many CI users fly frequently and wear their CI through airport security. You can place all the extra CI equipment in a small carry on that goes through the x-ray machine – most users have never been stopped and asked about anything.
Metal detectors and security scanners should not damage the implant or sound processor. However, cochlear implant recipients passing through security metal detectors and scanners may activate the alarm or their CI may switch off – just hold your magnet away from your head and replace it, it will switch on again. It is advised that patients carry an identification card from their manufacturer with them at all times. You may request a pat-down and visual and physical inspection of the sound processor in place of the metal detector or scanner.
X-Ray machines may damage any electret microphone, including those used in most cochlear implant systems and hearing aids. As a precaution, avoid placing these items in your checked bags. During airport security screening, the processor and T-mic (and spare parts) may be worn through the metal detector/scanner. Always keep other spare CI equipment with you and place them in a carry on that may go through the X-ray machine. You may ask to have your package of implant equipment hand-checked, which takes a few extra minutes.
Each CI manufacturer will have a users guide so consult that for details of going through airport security.
- Evelyn Gardner
In the UK, cochlear implant centres have holiday loaner schemes arranged through the manufacturers. Your local cochlear implant centre will have information on these schemes. You will usually have to give at least a month’s notice in advance and it costs around £30 per month. The holiday loaner scheme does not cover all models, e.g. Advanced Bionics Neptune.
Because checked baggage occasionally gets lost or damaged, do not pack any of your implant equipment in luggage that is intended to be checked. You probably have a small carrying case for your gear, so put all of the equipment in that case. If the airline personnel want to check your carry-on bag at the gate, remove the implant carrying case and bring it on the plane with you.
The FAA does not allow any lithium batteries, such as the batteries that your implant uses, in checked luggage. While lithium is not explosive, lithium batteries do present a fire hazard. They must be carried onto the plane where a fire can be detected more rapidly than in the cargo hold. This applies not only to your cochlear implant batteries, but to batteries in common electronic devices such as cell phones, mp3 players, notebook computers, tablets, and e-readers.
For more information on safe travel with batteries, please refer to this information from the TSA.
Because you may be without a mailing address for an extended period of time, you may want to bring spare parts such as chargers, power supplies, batteries, or other accessories with you. Pack them so that you will always have access to them, even if your carry-on luggage must be checked in.
Your implant kit comes with power supply adapters for most countries. Make sure to check the shape of the power outlets before you travel, and bring the correct adapters. Wikipedia maintains a list of power outlet shapes with pictures. Alternatively, you can buy a universal adapter, usually at the airport.
If you will be spending a lot of time in a car, take your cigarette lighter adapter. This may also be useful if you will have a car, and are concerned about the reliability of the public power utility.
If you plan to be in an area without power for an extended period, or would like an emergency backup, a portable charger that runs on D cell batteries can be used with your cigarette lighter adapter.
To save power, the electricity turns off automatically in some hotels when you leave the room! Ask when you check in if that will happen. If it does, you may be able to get a key to keep the electricity on, or to leave your charger at the front desk.