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Going on holiday

Photo: Holidays can pose their own challenges for deaf children

For many of us, our favourite childhood memories are from holidays. But holidays can pose their own challenges for deaf children. We have compiled these top tips to help you make sure your deaf child has a great time on holiday.

Louise (25) is profoundly deaf.

“I try not to let my deafness stop me from seeing the world… I would recommend that you plan ahead. My top tips would be to always carry a spare battery pack, keep your phone charged and keep an eye on the screens.”

Prepare for airport security and flying

If you’re flying to your holiday destination, these top tips are for you.

Airport security

There’s no need for your child to remove their hearing technology to go through airport security. NHS advice is that metal detectors and security scanners should not damage cochlear implants or hearing aids. However, hearing technology can activate the alarm at security so letting the airport staff know that your child has a hearing aid or cochlear implant can be beneficial. If your child has cochlear implants, carrying their Patient Identification Card will help in the unlikely event that their implant sets off a metal detector.

The magnetic field around the security equipment can cause a distorted sound which may be uncomfortable for some deaf children. Giving your child advance warning of this if they’re a bit older or considering turning off your child’s hearing aid or cochlear implant for a short time if they’re younger may be helpful.

Zain (16), who is profoundly deaf, explains that this can also help your deaf child to develop independence.

“Whenever we went on holiday my parents would talk to airport security for me about my implants if ever I had to go through a scanner. But recently I went through security on my own and went to Paris with my friends from school.”

Take-off and landing

When the flight attendant announces you need to turn off all electronic devices during take-off, landing and turbulence, this does not generally include hearing aids! However, some newer hearing aids include wireless technology and Bluetooth functionality which may require the aids to be switched to flight mode. Some airlines may also ask that cochlear implant processors and/or remote controls (remote assistants) are put in flight-safe mode during take-off and landing, but can be kept on during the flight. It’s best to check this with the airline staff before flying but most implant centres will have a letter for patients who are about to travel, explaining the importance of keeping the device on during travel.

In-flight movies don’t always have subtitles so if it’s a long flight, your child might like to pack other things they like doing to pass the time.

Mandeep, mum to Luckpal (14) who is profoundly deaf and has a cochlear implant.

“When we go on holiday I ask the Nottingham Auditory Implant Programme (NAIP), who provided Luckpal with his cochlear implant and give him support, to write an official letter...I also get another letter in the language of the country we’re visiting explaining this so there’s no confusion, as some countries aren’t deaf aware.”

Charlotte, mum to Leo (6) who is moderately deaf and wears hearing aids.

“Leo struggles with background noise so when flying we always make sure we’re last to board and leave the plane, so we avoid the rush. We also use his radio aid in busy places.”

Packing and your child’s hearing technology

Planning how you will charge hearing technology or equipment can be particularly important if you’re travelling abroad or camping. We recommend you pack spare batteries and don’t forget your cleaning kit to care for hearing aids on the go! An extension cable with multiple sockets can be really helpful.

Parents explain their packing top tips for packing.

Sherrie, mum to Megan (4) who is profoundly deaf and wears cochlear implants.

“Megan wears cochlear implants so we make sure we take enough travel plugs with us for the dry box, battery charger and accessories (each of ours was provided with adaptable plugs) when we travel. We pack rechargeable batteries in separate cases, in case of lost luggage, and make sure we have enough battery life in our hand luggage to last our travel time. I suggest contacting your implant centre/provider well in advance if you want to arrange insurance for the travel spares/replacement service.”

Kirsty, mum to Zach (9) who is profoundly deaf and wears cochlear implants.

“When going away we take an electronic dryer (a drying container to collect moisture), aqua cases, which are specifically for Cochlear N6 users and make the processors waterproof, international travel plugs and spares of everything. It all goes on as free-of-charge medical hand luggage and doesn’t count against the rest of your allowance.”

Amy, mum to Ryan (12) who is profoundly deaf and wears cochlear implants.

“We apply for a holiday pack, which is free once a year or £60 otherwise, from Ryan’s cochlear implant centre. It has an implant processor and basic accessories in case of any problems. It’s a sealed pack and we’re asked not to open it until we’ve done all the usual troubleshooting, because the centre gets charged when we open a pack. I also take any spare parts we have, just in case.”

Maria, nanny to Oliver (6) who wears hearing aids.

“Packing for Oliver shouldn’t be much different from any other child: extra batteries for his hearing aids, especially when going abroad – many audiologist centres will provide extra batteries in the UK (and make sure you have a torch for when the batteries roll under the bed – this has happened on many occasions); hearing aid care kit; iPad/tablet devices – these are really good for watching videos and we always take head phones for Oliver, he wears these over his hearing aids so he can hear better, don’t forget the chargers, the batteries run out pretty quick.”

Read Maria's blog about preparing for a holiday with grandson Oliver.

Plan for all environments

Holidays often involve water, whether that be a swimming pool, the sea or a water park. It can be useful to plan ahead. How you prepare might depend on whether you have a waterproof cover for your child’s hearing aid or cochlear implant or if your child will remove their hearing technology while they’re in the water.

If your child will remove their hearing technology, it can be helpful to have a plan for safely storing it once removed. It can also be helpful to have a plan for communicating when your child removes their hearing technology. Some basic signs can really help. This might be British Sign Language (BSL) or a few homemade signs to enable you to exchange basic information such as for your child to tell you they need the toilet or for you to ask them to come over to have more sun cream applied.

Sherrie, mum to Megan (4) who is profoundly deaf and wears cochlear implants.

“When in the pool, or at aqua parks, we use a fabric Alice band and swim hat, to keep processors in place, and Cochlear’s aqua accessory with ear clips. The mini mic radio aid is a great way of making sure your child can hear you if you’re on the edge of the pool. This was particularly useful when there were water fountains and play areas. Also, make sure everyone you’re travelling with is aware of how waterproof your child’s hearing devices are as water play is often more frequent on holiday!”

Charlotte, mum to Leo (6) who is moderately deaf and wears hearing aids.

“He manages without his hearing aids in the day while he’s round the pool but we then put them in for meal times and the evening. We’re so used to him wearing his aids now; everything just comes naturally as it’s all part of his daily routine. Whether we’re at home or on holiday, the rules still apply.”

Dealing with challenges

Remember your child might struggle with things they can normally do, if people are speaking a foreign language or are speaking English with an accent, and this can impact on how your child feels.

Reassuring your child that they aren’t the only one who struggles to communicate can be helpful! Your child may relish the challenge of learning a new language or hearing different accents. Alternatively, they may find this a bit overwhelming and become more dependent on you for support communicating. If you have a child who likes to be independent, you might want to work with them on learning some key words in a foreign language before you travel. Perhaps they would like to learn how to order a few of their favourite foods in a restaurant?

Maria, nanny to Oliver (6) who wears hearing aids.

“Teaching your child some sign language is really good, especially when in a noisy environment or when swimming and hearing aids have to be removed. It doesn’t have to be too complicated, for example: Are you ok? Thumbs up. Why are you sad? Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Are you happy?”

Safety in a new environment

If your child has a vibrating alarm clock at home, they might like to take this with them so they can still wake up independently in the morning. If you have a flashing fire alarm at home, you might like to chat to your child about what will happen if a fire alarm happens when they’re sleeping – for example, that you will be with them and can wake them up.

Amy, mum to Ryan (12) who is profoundly deaf.

“If Ryan attends any holiday clubs I write a briefing, including what it’s like to have a hearing loss and how to communicate with him. It lists some deaf awareness tips, such as to speak facing him, don’t shout, repeat instructions away from busy situations and check he has understood. I also include a very brief troubleshooting guide to his implants and any rules for taking them off for activities like swimming and trampolining. From experience, if holiday club staff don’t ask how to communicate with him, he doesn’t stay there.”

Insurance

Be careful to read the small print of any travel insurance policy you take out and always mention your child’s deafness.

Kirsty is mum to Zach (9) who is profoundly deaf.

“We have the Cochlear annual insurance policy, where Cochlear guarantee to ship a replacement processor to you wherever you are in the world within a specified timescale mapped for you ready to use (but Cochlear offer a number of different insurance policies).

Regular travel insurance needs hearing loss and cochlear implants specified to cover any treatment at all. If you break a leg and they find out you didn’t tell them about deafness, you’re not covered for a broken leg!”