This week, we have a special “Ask Anna” column, based on some questions we received during #HearingLossHour – a monthly, live chat on Twitter. During July’s session, we discussed sports, and the challenges we face when wearing hearing aids and being an athlete. One activity that dominated a lot of the conversation was about cycling. In my ignorance, I didn’t realize how scary the prospect of cycling on roads with a hearing loss can be. In some cases, people said they had given up this sport that they loved because of their hearing loss. After the hour had finished, I went straight to one of my colleagues, Solange, who is also an audiologist and has a severe to profound hearing loss and wears Phonak Naida V hearing aids.
Together we came up with some answers to: “How can I enjoy cycling with a hearing loss?”
Anna: Solange, please tell us a bit yourself and what you do as sports and hobbies outside of work?
Solange: I enjoy being outside and like hiking, snow shoe walking and am an avid cyclist. I do road cycling, not mountain biking, which I got into because my husband used to race and we used to ride with the cycling team.My biggest accomplishment was doing 120-150 km a day (100 miles). This was before kids came along! I still ride, but only around 40 km in a day.
Anna: What kind of challenges do you face as a cyclist with a hearing loss?
Solange: There are challenges with group rides (team or friends). During the warm up or cool down time people are communicating and chatting, and it is easier to hear because you are not going too fast, but as speed picks up it gets more difficult to hear because of wind noise. It becomes really difficult above 20 km per hour, which is similar for normal hearing cyclists. So, conversation tends to stop. Hand signals become really important. I also use wind protection over my hearing aids, which I find very helpful. I don’t hear cars or other environmental sounds unless they are very loud or close. It is possible, however, to hear traffic and environmental sounds when your are cycling alone, but only if you stay below certain speeds. In traffic on the road I have to be focused and aware and I tend to go slower. A strong head wind can be a problem, however, even if I am going slow.
Anna: What would be your message to other people with a hearing loss who want to get out on their bikes?
Solange: First, I would like to say just because you have a hearing loss doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy cycling. Cyclists who have normal hearing and those with hearing loss will technically face the same issue of not being able to hear anything, once they reach a certain speed.
However, before you start cycling, it is important to define your goals and decide what do you want to get out of it. Is it for general fitness or exercise, with less focus on communication? Or do you want to cycle to enjoy the ride with family or friends as a social activity?
Anna: Great message Solange! Do you have a list of tips and tricks that people can use when cycling with a hearing loss?
Anna: Thanks, Solange for your great, expert advice! I hope this encourages others with hearing loss to enjoy cycling.