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Disasters happen: When there is a major disaster, such as wildfire, hurricane, flood, terrorist event, or something of a major magnitude, hearing aids and cochlear implant speech processors can end up lost, stolen, or broken in the chaos. Even smaller events can be a problem. Blizzards, heavy rainstorms, and extended heat waves can lead to damage to the hearing aids, shorter battery life, lost batteries and the inability to hear at a really bad time. Assistive listening devices are very important, too.

Plan for it in advance: The first step for you should be to plan for disasters. Have a pair of back-up hearing aids or processors (if possible), and plenty of batteries for both them and your current aids if the battery sizes are different, and whatever dry-aid you may have for storing your hearing aids handy. If a disaster is close, move them into your grab-and-go container.

If it looks like you might be home-bound for a period, such as a blizzard coming, make sure that you do stock up on any supplies you might need, including plenty of batteries.   

Make sure you are informed of potential problem situations: Have a NOAA weather radio that you can perceive, and nag your local TV stations to caption all urgent news bulletins. The last thing you want to do is go out and go shopping when there is a sniper on the loose. If they don’t caption everything, complain to the station, the newspapers and the Federal Communication Commission. Just in case all of the previous steps fail, have a couple of neighbors appointed to make sure that you are informed.  Get your accessible NOAA weather radio here: http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/edu/safety/specialneeds.html

If you have to evacuate: Make sure that you bring your emergency equipment, but if you don’t succeed, you should have been contacting the local Red Cross and any other organizations that might be involved in advance to make them aware of the accommodations you will be needing. At the very least, they should have a stockpile of assorted hearing aid battery sizes and a TTY.

See if you can help arrange in advance for local hearing aid dealers and audiologists to be prepared to repair and give loaners during the emergency. This would be a good project for a Hearing Loss Association of America chapter or Association of Late-Deafened Adults chapter, or a Senior Center.

One example of an emergency service:  Following the 2007 California Wildfires, the Auditory Assistants in Escondido, CA, advertised that they will replace one hearing aid for anyone who lost theirs in the fire. Call (760) 743-5544.