Tips for Cycling Safely With Hearing Aids
The Tour De France is the oldest cycling event in the world, and it attracts attention from everyone with an interest in cycling. While many people with hearing loss feel that they cannot take part in intense sports like cycling, that’s a misconception. In fact, with the proper gear and hearing aids, you can enjoy cycling just as much as anyone else.
This guide will tell you how to stay safe on the road, how to adjust your hearing aids for a safe and enjoyable trip, and how to choose an accommodating helmet. Even if you don’t have hearing loss, many cyclists are exposed to prolonged noise that damages their hearing. Regardless of whether you use hearing aids, this guide can help you learn more about cycling and aural health.
Staying Safe on the Road
It doesn’t matter if you have hearing loss or not, staying safe while cycling in traffic should be your top priority. Accidents can happen to anyone, no matter how much experience they have or the quality of their equipment. However, there are ways to improve road safety.
The basics go for all cyclists: wear a helmet, always tell someone where you’re going, and try not to follow the same path every day. Bring a phone, and make sure to stay hydrated over the course of your trip. Many people neglect to stop and re-hydrate, which leads to heat exhaustion and dehydration. If you can find a handlebar mirror, invest in one. It can help you see any cars approaching from the rear.
Those with hearing aids have to take extra precautions to stay safe on the road. Above all else, it’s important that you wear your hearing aids, and adjust them to block out the wind. It’s hard for people with excellent hearing to make out the sound of traffic over the wind, so make sure that your hearing-care-provider helps you set up a noise-cancellation mode.
You can also wear a cap or headband over your hearing aids to help block out the wind. Many regular cyclists will do this to help block out noise as they speed down the road, and it works the same for those with hearing aids.
While many people cycle alone, you should take extra precautions to be aware of your environment. Your hearing aid settings are even more important if you plan on taking solo trips, because no-one will be around to alert you via cues.
That brings up our next tip: avoid cycling alone. Cycling with friends is always safer, regardless of how well you hear.
The Benefits of Cycling in Groups
Even people without hearing aids choose to cycle in groups when they can. Along with the benefit of companionship, it also improves the safety of your journey. It’s similar to traveling in packs — the more of you there are, the safer you’ll be.
When cycling in groups, you can establish cues to warn each other about traffic and other dangers. With multiple people keeping an eye out for cars and motorcycles, at least one person is going to notice oncoming vehicles. Cyclists are also more likely to take breaks when others are around, which makes the activity less strenuous.
Cycling in groups also boosts the awareness of drivers around you. While a driver might overlook a lone cyclist, they have to make more accommodations for a group. They’ll give your group more berth, lowering the chances of an accident.
If you don’t have friends or family members to cycle with, try joining a cycling group in your area. Even if you’re shy or inexperienced, most groups are happy to accept new members. They can give you pointers, and help you learn how to cycle safely and efficiently. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s always good to have someone watching your back.
Adjusting Your Hearing Aids
Your bike, helmet, and hearing aids are the biggest tool at your disposal. Staying vigilant is easier when you can hear the world around you, so it’s important that you get your hearing aids adjusted properly. The best way to do this is to visit your hearing care provider. Explain the situation and ask them to create a special “cycling” setting.
Your cycling setting should include the use of an omni-directional microphone setting. This is a special setting that allows you to pick up sounds from all directions, including behind you. While this might not be the best setting for conversations or parties, it can save your life while on the road. You’ll need to hear cars approaching from the sides and rear, and an omni-directional microphone setting can pick up the sound of their approach.
Next, you’ll need hearing aids with a wind-cancellation feature. This noise-filter should be turned all the way up. You should reduce the strain of hearing over wind as much as possible. Even people with fully-intact hearing have trouble hearing traffic or voices in windy situations, and it can be even harder for hearing aid wearers.
If you don’t have a hearing care provider, it’s important that you find one that can help you adjust your hearing aid settings. The Signia Store Locator can help you find professionals in your area, so you can begin cycling as soon as possible.
Choosing a Helmet
Once your hearing aids are adjusted, it’s time to find a helmet that can accommodate them. Never buy a helmet without trying it on first, and always wear your hearing aids when shopping for a helmet. There’s no guarantee that the helmet you buy will fit comfortably with your hearing aids, so you need to make sure of that before taking it to the register.
You want the helmet to fit snugly, without smashing your ears or hearing aids. If you plan on wearing something on your head underneath the helmet like a cap or band, make sure to wear that too.
After buying your helmet, consider buying accessories to help block out the wind. You can find special straps and wind blockers online and in sports catalogs.
Caring For Your Hearing Aids
Whether you’re cycling in the heat or the bitter cold, moisture is a serious concern.
In the heat, you’re going to sweat. To avoid moisture damage, you might need to stop and wipe down your ears and hearing aids. Sweatbands can reduce the amount of sweat reaching your ears, but you should still stop and wick away moisture with a towel. Water-stops are a great opportunity to do this. Drink some water and wipe down your hearing aids before hitting the road again.
When it’s cold, condensation is the concern. While you’re still going to sweat, your hearing aids are going to collect moisture from the air around you. Your batteries will also drain faster because of the cold, so make sure to bring a change of batteries if you plan on going for a long trip.
Protecting Your Hearing
This section applies to everyone, regardless of their level of hearing. Recent studies have shown that cyclists’ hearing tends to degrade over time. Many professional and hobbyist cyclists suffer from high rates of noise-induced hearing loss as they grow older.
This is due to loud sounds, particularly wind-noise. Wind can become extraordinarily loud, and prolonged exposure can wear on your hearing. This results in sensorineural hearing loss, a degradation of the nerves in your cochlea. While sensorineural hearing loss is incurable, you can take measures to avoid it.
As mentioned above, headbands and other head coverings can be used to filter out wind noise. It’s also important that you take it easy after windy bike rides. Avoid loud music and concerts, and give your ears a chance to recover before taking another long ride.
While you can’t always avoid cycling through the wind, you can do your best to protect your ears in the process. Fully protecting your ears is difficult, since earplugs and muffs can reduce your spatial awareness. Do what you can, and get frequent hearing tests. If your hearing does start to deteriorate, you’ll want to catch it early. Letting hearing loss fester can cause a myriad of other issues, including depression and mental fatigue.
Those who use hearing aids aren’t the only ones who can benefit from information on aural health. Many people don’t realize how delicate their hearing is, and what they can do to protect it.
The Signia newsletter can give you information on how to care for your ears, how to identify hearing loss, and what to do if you’re diagnosed. For those that do use hearing aids, the newsletter can keep you updated on new developments, tips and tricks for hearing aid care, and more.