Hearing loss and sports presents a different kind of challenge.
However, many people have accomplished great things despite their hearing loss. The pain and frustration of being told you or your child have a hearing loss and the many ideas that go through one's mind can be overwhelming, so let me clear up a few myths.
No, a hearing loss does not prevent you from playing sports. It may be challenging wearing hearing aids or a cochlear implant but it's not impossible for those willing to overcome the barriers. Let's look at all that is need to play a sport. Do you have a coach, teammates, gear, sportsmanship qualities, confidence, self-esteem, patience and the ability to take direction and go for your dreams? Then play the sport.
There have been and are many professional athletes who have not let their hearing loss or deafness stop them from playing the sport they loved.
Heather Whitestone became the first deaf Miss America and her talent was dance, Chris Colwill is an international deaf diver and the Tamika Catchings is a WNBA player. In the NBA, there's Lance Allred while the MLB has Curtis Pride. The NHL has Jim Kyte and there's also Mat Gilbert, a rugby player. In swimming, there's Marsus Titus. And did I mention Alpine skiing gold medalist Edna Yakovishina?
These are just a few athletes who were either deaf or had a severe hearing loss. And they had help along the way. Before you jump into a sport, there are some things you should know.
Coaches need patients, to be vocal and not soft spoken. Give the students directions using gestures and confirm that the player understands. Don't talk with your back turned to the deaf player. Also make sure you are in good light but don't make the player look into the light because they need to read your speech cues.
Develop some strategies for getting the child's attention. And same as all sports, treat all the team members the same. Teammates need to be comfortable around a child with hearing aids or a cochlear implant. It is OK to ask questions about the implant or hearing aids. Know that you as a team need to work together to include all the teammates and their unique gifts.
As a player remember to turn your hat sideways during the rain to help protect your implant or wear sweatbands. Remember to keep a clean towel handy for you to dry your hair and head due to sweat or rain.
Develop strategies with coaches, teammates and the officials so communication is both at a developmental and competitive level. Remember safety. Try using mesh ear flaps to assist holding hearing devices in place and for added warmth. Discuss things with your audiologist. Audiologists are here to help you hear no matter what sport you choose to play.
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Patricia Larson Shields, AuD FAAA MA CCC-SP/L is a doctor of audiology with her degree from The School of Audiology of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in February, 2003. She has been in business in Mitchell, SD since September, 1991.