Dealing with Hearing Aids

While playing sports with hearing loss can be difficult, it is certainly not impossible. Felicity Bleckly, BellaOnline’s Deafness editor, has written a number of articles regarding sports and hearing loss. In one article called “Deafness and Sports,” Bleckly provides insight into some of the problems that might arise with using hearing aids while playing sports:

  • Keeping aids or implant processors (i.e. batteries) in place
  • Protecting devices from damage, including any internal implants
  • Protecting devices from sweat

Bleckly delves into particular issues with hearing aids by sport, including team, individual, and water sports.

Team and tackle sports: Such sports include hockey, football, and cricket. With these team sports, the player needs to hear their teammates, opponents, coach, and the referee. While wearing a helmet with a hearing aid or implant processor is an option, some team sports do not require helmets. Even with a helmet on, tackle sports make it difficult to protect outside processors and implants. However, playing these sports is possible; the athletes might just have to adapt their head gear or helmets.

Individual and racquet sports: These include running, cycling, swimming, golf, and tennis. It’s safer when cycling to be able to hear traffic. Fortunately, wearing a helmet should be enough to keep devices in place. Running and racquet sports may be a little more problematic due to the constant movement jostling the hearing device, but a headband may be used to both keep a hearing device in place and also protect it from sweat.

Swimming and water sports: These sports, including skiing and diving, pose the greatest challenge for the deaf athlete. Currently, there are no waterproof hearing aids or cochlear implants. Some have tried situating waterproof bags under swim caps, but this is not recommended.

Check out Bleckly’s full article here.

As a deaf running back for UCLA, Derrick Coleman understands the problems Bleckly discusses. To alleviate some of these issues with his hearing aids while playing, he wears two wave caps. He wears one cap under his hearing aids to prevent them from being damaged by sweat; his second cap is worn over his hearing aids so they do not come out or get damaged when he gets tackled. Coleman’s example proves that with a little extra effort, playing with hearing loss is possible.

Discrimination against Deaf Athletes?

Although there are many ways that deaf athletes can overcome their hearing loss and compete in sports, some coaches and teammates may discriminate against these athletes. The story of Pierce Phillips brings up the issue of discrimination. On May 3, 2011, Joseph Santoliquito published an article about Phillips. At the time, Phillips was a senior baseball player for his high school team in Blackwood, New Jersey. Phillips’ parents never let his deafness define him. They familiarized themselves with deaf culture and learned sign language. Because of this parental support, Phillips had never felt hindered by his deafness and participated in many sports and activities.

Phillips’ senior year baseball stats were impressive; he was batting .425. His grades were strong as well; he carried a 3.7 GPA. With such athletic and academic success, one would think that Phillips had a strong chance of playing college baseball. However, the Phillips family reported it was at this point that they had encountered some ignorance. Whenever Phillips was invited to college camps or asked about by college coaches, their interest disappeared after finding out he was deaf. His parents expressed their frustrations at the ignorance of the college coaches, and his high school coach expressed the hope that some college would realize Phillips’ potential and be willing to work with his hearing loss.

Read the full article here.