Travel plans for children with hearing loss

Published: Jun. 10, 2019 at 3:49 PM EDT
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It's estimated that 3 million children in the U.S. have some form of hearing loss. This can make things like air travel more challenging for families.

But experts have advice on how to make that next trip a smooth flight.

Theo Vallesdoesn't travel without this kit.

"I love traveling and knowing new things," he said.

The 12-year-old was diagnosed with hearing loss as a toddler.

"Is he going to be able to go to school? Is he going to be able to be independent?" Romina Picon, Theo's mom, remembers thinking at the time of his diagnosis.

Theo got his first cochlear implant at age 9 and his second at 11.

"Oftentimes, our families of kids with hearing loss really struggle in knowing how to prepare in order to travel," University of Miami Health System Department of Otolaryngology assistant professor Dr. Ivette Cejas said.

Cejas works with children with all types and degrees of hearing loss and their families.

"Be ready, be prepared, kind of have a little checklist of what things they need to be traveling with," she said.

She said whether your child wears hearing aids or has a cochlear implant like Theo, pack the backups. She warns not to put that extra equipment through the X-ray machines.

"That can damage the programs on the device," Cejas said.

But going through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints doesn't mean they have to remove their hearing devices.

"They should keep them on, as they are considered medical equipment," Cejas said.

Theo flew to Boston by himself last summer for sleepover camp.

"By myself is pretty cool, because you get more independence and you have more responsibilities," he said.

His mom said she doesn't want anything to hold her son back.

"I could not let my fears win," Picon said.

Proving the sky is the limit – never let a disability keep you grounded!

Parents should also notify the airline or airport that they will be traveling with a hearing-impaired child because there may be extra services they can get. And, of course, you should always check with your child's doctor for any specific instructions.

Theo's mom told him in case of an emergency to make sure he tells an adult he has hearing loss.



BACKGROUND: Hearing loss affects 48 million people in the United States and can occur at birth or develop at any age. One out of three people over age 65 have some degree of hearing loss, and fourteen percent of those ages 45-64 have some type of hearing loss. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, affects 50 million people in the United States. Approximately three million children in the United States have hearing loss and 1.3 million of them are under the age of three. Fifteen percent of children between the ages of 6-19 have a measurable hearing loss in at least one ear and over 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents. A mild hearing loss can cause a child to miss as much as fifty percent of school. With early identification and appropriate services, deaf children can develop communication skills at the same rate as their hearing peers. (Source:

TYPES OF HEARING LOSS: A conductive hearing loss indicates that there is a problem with the mechanism that conducts sound from the environment to the inner ear. Problems in the external auditory canal (outer ear), ear drum or the bones of hearing (the middle ear) may cause a conductive loss. This type of loss can often be corrected by medication or surgery. A sensorineural hearing loss indicates a problem in the organ of hearing or the nerve of hearing. There may be damage to the cochlea (inner ear), auditory nerve, or the auditory centers of the brain. An individual with a sensorineural hearing loss may benefit from a hearing aid, cochlear implant, communication therapies, or other medical management depending on the degree of the loss or the cause of the loss. People with hearing loss wait an average of 7 years before seeking help. Only sixteen percent of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss. Hearing aids can offer dramatic improvement for most people with hearing loss. (Source:

EXCITING BREAKTHROUGH HELPS CHILDREN WITH HEARING LOSS: A Florida State University researcher joined an international team using brain scans and machine-learning algorithms to determine which areas of the brain were most associated with learning speech among deaf children with cochlear implants. The breakthrough, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, puts the team on track to develop a tool that can help predict which children will need more intensive speech therapy. "That's where we want to go with this," said Erin Ingvalson, assistant professor in FSU's School of Communication Science and Disorders. "We want to develop a measure that clinicians can use to identify which children will need more speech-language support after they get their cochlear implant. That kind of tool would allow us to intervene with focused therapy that increases their ability to learn language," Ingvalson continued. The cochlear implant can be a life-changing technology. However, over the past decade, researchers have documented a gap in speech outcomes among children who receive the device. Some acquire language and catch up to their peers with normal hearing, while others lag well behind. "We want to figure out how to close that gap," said Ingvalson. (Source: