Travel. Somewhere deep in our collective DNA is the urge to see new places and experience new adventures. Travel is an education like no other, and the more of this beautiful planet we can see, the more we can appreciate all that Earth has to offer.
But if you have small children, then a trip to the local pool may seem as involved as an attempt to summit Mt. Everest (and you may pack just as many snacks). If you are getting a little further away from home base this summer, you will need to pack and plan a lot (don’t forget their favorite blanket).
If you are traveling with a child who has a CI, then your checklist is much more important and involved than a typical pack. But as involved as this is, it will soon become fairly routine. Our son is five, and he has had bilateral (two) cochlear implants for three years. We’ve traveled a lot with Miles, and we’ve learned a few things about traveling with his equipment that I would love to share.
First of all, and most importantly, GO. If there is any hesitation over the process of travel, then put that behind you. It’s not as difficult as you think; you just have to get in Boy Scout mode and “be prepared.” Like I said before, travel is the best kind of education, so don’t let your anxiety take away what could be a family trip of a lifetime. You’ve got this.
One thing you have to remember when packing for travel is the importance of all of the accessories and keeping track of them. When we travel, we have a designated backpack with Miles’ equipment. We pack his chargers and drying kit, and then, as the “overprotective, worrysome dad,” I pack lots of extra parts and accessories.
In his CI backpack, I always have at least two extra cables and two extra batteries, and we pack his backup processors. We also have a small case with extra ear pieces and magnet housing, just in case. Remember, if the CI loses function mid-trip without a backup, then your trip may take a different turn.
One of the reasons we chose the Advanced Bionics CI was the waterproof option. Miles was told early on that to get his processors wet was NOT a good thing, so getting him used to using his CIs in water is still a work in progress. He doesn’t use his devices when he bathes, and he has switched to showers and likes the hearing break.
Just like our entire journey with CIs, we navigate as new challenges pop up and adjust accordingly. We’ve slowly introduced the waterproof feature via “school water days,” which has been great. I’m sure he’s going to enjoy using them while he splashes his brother before the end of the summer.
The beach is always high on our travel list, and again, one or two special steps should be taken when we visit the land of sand. We typically pack an airtight container for his devices for when he wants to swim or play. This will keep them sand-free and water-free as he enjoys the day. There are also dehumidifier containers available to help keep the devices in top shape as you soak it all in.
When we fly, we have no problems with Miles’ devices. I thought that maybe the drone of the jetliner engines would be an issue, but it was not. My biggest worry was losing a transmitter in the lavatory. Again, too much worry over nothing. And to connect to a device via Bluetooth is not a big deal, either, since it keeps within the headphone requirement on airplanes.
Security checkpoints at the airport are sometimes a bit of a stressful situation, especially corralling the small ones to get screened; however, we have had great luck with the screening process. Our son walked right through the metal detector and didn’t have to remove his devices in the process or endure additional screening.* If you have a concern with an airport you will be utilizing, I would check with TSA (or, if flying internationally, check with the airport in advance) about procedures to avoid any problems.
That’s not to say that there won’t be any incident. If you’re in an airport or shuttle bus situation where there are a lot of people, the chances of someone brushing against the CI and knocking it off accidentally are higher. We also know roughly when the batteries are going to require recharging, so we swap them out before dinner to avoid any down time as the night goes on.
Speaking of charging, I always have a charged power brick with me on the road (and at home in case of power outages) to give us one more level of assurance if we need to charge his CI batteries. If you forget the plug adapter, the batteries will charge using the USB port on your hotel TV.
As you and your child get more familiar with your devices and you figure out what works and doesn’t work, travel won’t be a burden. Except when it comes to snacks. I can’t help you there. I hope some of this helps with your journeys, both hearing and travel, and that you and your family enjoy a very happy and safe summer. Now get out and have some fun!
*X-ray machines will not damage the sound processor; however, X-ray machines have the potential to damage the microphones used in most cochlear implant systems and hearing aids. As a precaution, avoid placing these items in cargo luggage or carry-on luggage that will be screened with X-ray machines. During airport security screening, the processor T-Mic™ and any spare parts carried should either be worn through the metal detector/scanner or examined by hand.