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Hearing Aids and Airport Security

Gus Hernandez, MA, FAAA

December 13, 2010

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Question

I think I've seen hearing aid user manuals mention not sending hearing aids through the airport x-ray machine, I assume to prevent damage to the microchip. Do they contain enough metal to set off the metal detectors, potentially subjecting wearers to scans and pat-downs? What is the best advice for hearing aid wearers going through security?

Answer

"Attention travelers - please remove all jackets, shoes, laptops, metal, coins, belts and place them in a bin! No liquids greater than 3 ounces allowed. Remove all checked liquids from your bags and place them in a bin inside a clear, one quart-sized bag!" This is but one rendition of the instructions being shouted by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners at all airports these days. As a frequent flyer for the past 11 years I hear these words in my sleep and have become quite adept at moving efficiently through the security checkpoints by following these (and other) TSA guidelines. Thankfully for me (and thousands of people with hearing loss), hearing aids and cochlear implants are not on the restricted list of the TSA - at least not at the time of this submission. Being the curious guy I am, I have worn custom and behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing instruments through security several times at various airports around the world and have never been asked to remove them, nor have they set off any metal detectors. In addition to the hearing instruments I'm wearing (and because of the consummate professional I am) I usually have dozens of hearing instruments, along with programming cables, batteries, programming interfaces (i.e. NOAHlink, HI-PRO) and assistive listening devices in my carry-on as well. I have often wondered why I do not get searched more frequently as all of these devices/cables must certainly raise the interest of the screeners, but it has never happened (I literally knocked on wood as I typed this). In the past year, it is my portable projector that has actually garnered the attention of TSA screeners to the point where I routinely remove that, but my satchel of programming gear remains (thankfully) below the radar.

Since it is always better to be safe than sorry, I've included a link to the TSA website specifically designed for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. I recommend viewing this and the main TSA site prior to flying as the ever-changing landscape of airport travel can cause unwelcome surprises to those who are unprepared. That said I've taken the liberty of copying/pasting two specific comments from the link below relating to your question:

  • It is not necessary to remove hearing aids or the exterior component of a cochlear implant at security checkpoints.

  • It is best if you wear your hearing device while going through the metal detector.
    http://www.tsa.gov/
I hope you found this information helpful and I wish you and all people traveling safe and uneventful travels!

Dr. Hernandez received his Bachelor of Arts in Speech Pathology & Audiology from Northern Arizona University, his Master of Arts in Communication Disorders & Speech Sciences from the University of Colorado, Boulder and his Doctorate in Audiology from Salus University. He worked clinically in Boulder/Denver for three years before joining Siemens Hearing Instruments in 1997 and is currently employed as a Senior Manager of Training and Education. His responsibilities include training staff & professionals across the country on advanced amplification technology, fitting techniques & programming software.


Gus Hernandez, MA, FAAA


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