Personal, Post-Activation

Airport Security: A Traumatizing Experience For Cochlear Implant Recipients

You may have remembered a few months back I mentioned how I would be going to Disney with my boyfriend. I’m happy to say we had a very successful trip and it was a blast! However, there is one part I could have done without: airport security.

I remembered from when I went on my senior trip to Disney in 2008 that this wasn’t going to be a fun or easy task. Back in 2008 before I had my cochlear, I had my hearing aids. I was able to wear those through the scanner with no problem. However, they did set off an alarm from the battery. This resulted in me being pulled aside from all of my classmates and thorough patted down and embarrassed. I knew things weren’t going to be any easier with a cochlear, but I still underestimated just how badly this would suck.

Our first airport was in Philadelphia for a flight to Orlando. We got there around 3 and our flight didn’t leave until I think around 5. It was delayed a bit. I ran into several problems here. First with my ID. You may recall how I don’t yet have a driver’s license. Therefore, I don’t have a license to give as ID like most people do. Instead, I have a State ID. This is something I had made specifically for the airport 7 years ago when I went on my high school senior trip. I never had a problem with it with the airport before. I guess in the 7 years since I last used it, things have changed though. Apparently it’s not an acceptable form of ID anymore. After having multiple forms of airport security come over and examine it, they asked for my SS card. I showed them that and it was fine, but still held everyone up and made me look like a criminal or something. And no, my ID wasn’t even close to expiring. So annoying.

Unfortunately, things didn’t get better from there on. I had both of my cochlears in my hand (I have two both for the same ear) and my medical cards that explain that I have a cochlear implant. I was told I needed to present the card at the airport so they’d know not to scan anything. However, when I tried to give them my card they didn’t want to be bothered to look at it at all.They didn’t seem to comprehend that I had a cochlear implant. To  make things better, I of course couldn’t hear anything since I had to keep my cochlear in my hand and away from the scanner. Luckily, my boyfriend was with me the entire time helping me out. He kept reiterating what I was saying… “THIS CANNOT GO IN THE SCANNER. IT WILL DESTROY IT”. We both had to say it about 10,000 times and held up the line pretty well, but eventually they got it and nothing went through the scanner that shouldn’t have went through.

Don’t for a minute think that I got through easy though. Apparently, having a medical device that cannot go through airport security is deemed “suspicious” at the Philadelphia airport. The result? You can expect a very thorough pat-down. This was far worst than how I remembered it being from my senior trip 7 years ago. I can’t complain too much since the security woman did tell me what she was going to do, but it still didn’t make it any better. I got felt up/groped all over. Touched inappropriately. Their wasn’t an area of my body she didn’t grab and shake and pat down. It was very awkward and embarrassing. This was all down right in front of my boyfriend who was still trying to help me. I felt so bad for him having to see that all that when it was done I went over and apologized to him. I felt very violated and wronged by it all.

My nerves were pretty shot after all of that. It took me awhile to calm down and relax. It was certainly a very anxiety-ridden experience and I wasn’t looking forward to having to do it all over again in Orlando.

flight to orlando

We’re all smiles here on our flight to Orlando, but that definitely wasn’t the case a few hours earlier.

Luckily, for our flight home, Orlando security was 100x’s better. I still had issues with my ID (I guess I’ll have to make sure to either get my license or a passport or something next time I plan on flying…), but they were much nicer about it. I didn’t even have to show them my SS card. They understood what “this cannot go through the scanner” meant. And I didn’t even get a pat down. Hooray! Orlando airport security is 100xs better than Philadelphia’s, that’s for sure.

I don’t know that we’ll be flying again anytime soon. It’s kind of expensive, a bit of a hassle, and on top of all of these problems, Larry and I had a bit of an issue with our ears popping and causing us great pain. Most of us kind of just prefer driving to flying, but at least now I know what to expect for next time, right?

3 thoughts on “Airport Security: A Traumatizing Experience For Cochlear Implant Recipients”

  1. What a nightmare. Check with your clinic to confirm but most processors are now fine to go through the scanners at airports now. My daughter just walks through with them still on her head now YAY!

    1. What kind of processor does she have? I have the Naifa Q170 CI by Advanced Bionics. My audiogist said it couldn’t go through the scanners.

  2. I would contact AB, many people I’ve corresponded with have said they never take off their processors at the airport. When I asked my audi about it, I was told airport security scans would not be a problem.

Leave a Reply