Physical fitness and yoga promote overall well-being, but with hearing loss, it takes more than getting a workout to have an enjoyable experience at the gym or fitness center.
As individuals with hearing loss, we’ve more things to care about besides getting the downward dog pose done correctly. It can be frustrating not being able to follow the classes and having to look at your neighbors to follow along in a full class. Sometimes, we feel unsure if we are mastering the fitness lessons because we can’t hear what the instructor is saying.
You may feel the gym is a lonely experience. You may be unable to interact with others because of the noise or because you don’t use your hearing devices. It’s hard for others to relate to your experience when there are no other deaf or hard of hearing gym members you could seek advice.
We don’t want hearing loss to deter anyone from pursuing a healthy lifestyle. In this article, we’ll explore the shared experiences of deaf and hard of hearing individuals at the gym and provide tips to enjoy your workout continuously.
What are the common hearing loss challenges at the gym and fitness class?
Communication barriers with other people and fitness classes
One of the primary challenges deaf and hard of hearing individuals face at the gym is communication. Instructors speak out loud to give instructions and guide us during the workout. Their voices need to be audible for us to follow, but they aren’t.
Some gyms like to turn their class into a nightclub. With loud music blaring and fitness instructors’ voices barely audible behind the noise. Some instructors are getting a workout along with the class. They scream to help motivate you, but while out of breath. Being loud doesn’t always bring clarity to what they are saying.
It isn’t only the instructors we can’t hear clearly. It could be other people in the class. It’s not easy to listen to people speak when they are out of breath, soft talkers, or the voices with background music.
Gym buildings with poor room acoustics
You may have a gym with poor acoustics. The owners didn’t build their fitness centers to be acoustic friendly to all the noises from being in an open space room. Gyms are noisy because of heavy weights banging against each other or on the floor. TV monitors or music playing in the background without personalized listening. Beeping audio or machine noises from exercise machines and people talking are why gyms are noisy places. Some gyms don’t think about what all the sound can do in a confined space or how it can damage one’s hearing.
Unable to see in dark lighting in the classroom
Some fitness centers are all about setting the mood with lighting in a room. Lighting can vary depending on the classes. It could be your yoga class, meditation, or your spinning class. The light is dimmed to set a relaxing tone and keep distractions at bay.
When it gets too dark, it’s hard to see the instructor while everyone in the class is doing fine. Others find ease with hearing their voices in the sea of darkness. If you’re big into lipreading, it’s challenging to follow along with the lessons. You might feel like you’re sitting there or making things up.
Getting your listening devices to work
Some people prefer to go completely deaf when they’re working out. They don’t want to wear their hearing aids or cochlear implants because of the sweat. Sometimes, your hearing aids or cochlear implants aren’t loud and clear enough for you to follow along in the class.
How do you go about making your workout work for you?
Let your gym staff or instructor know
Some gyms are all about the inclusive gym experience, and they’re willing to make sure that you want to come back again. It’s partly good business but also good for their reputation.
They may help you to ensure that you’re benefiting from the class and can follow their instructions by giving you a preparatory lesson ahead of the class. They may offer you a spot up in the front of the room for those classes that draw many to attend. They may come right up to you to correct your posture or model what you must do. They may use hand gestures to help guide you. They may try to speak clearly in your presence. Whatever it is, show them suggestions for what they can do to help you.
Choose deaf and hard of hearing instructors or inclusive fitness classes
Many deaf yoga and fitness instructors have risen to prominence, using their unique experiences and perspectives to develop innovative yoga practices and fitness classes. They often incorporate sign language into their classes, know how to give visual cues, and have a solid following among deaf and hearing yoga enthusiasts.
The Worldwide Deaf Gym is one network that gathers fitness enthusiasts online to find instructors and classes that are deaf and hard of hearing friendly. You’ll benefit from searching for potential instructors near you to try out and see if being around like-minded people will make your fitness experience more enjoyable.
Use Assistive Devices
During the pandemic, many classes went online. If you are still joining an online class, you can leverage closed captioning to help follow along.
Now, many industry-specific video platforms may not be equipped with closed captioning as a feature on the online app. You may need to use a third-party app to display audio transcription from your speaker.
Other devices could be external microphones compatible with hearing aids or cochlear implants. These external mics could also include the FM systems. You use an external microphone to pair your hearing aids or cochlear implants.
These devices will need to be near the instructors. Ideally, if you are in a class with many body movements and jumping, you should consider setting up the mic near the instructor to avoid hearing the mic hitting against the clothing or wind sounds.
If you’re in a class with a state-of-the-art sound system, you might want to see if you can use the audio system’s Bluetooth feature and pair it with your hearing aids via your smartphone app.
You can use the Bluetooth features on your exercise equipment if you want to watch TV or connect to the audio feature. Many of these equipment have smart technology to allow you to pair along.
Protect your hearing devices
Using your hearing aids or cochlear implants when sweating profusely can cause long-term damage to your devices. Your cochlear implant may not stay on well to your head and keep slipping off.
You’ll need to ensure that you have a backup plan to remove the moisture from damaging and rusting the internal components of your hearing devices. A dry aid kit is an excellent idea to have, and another idea is to get a covering that will allow your hearing aids or cochlear implants not to touch any sweat. Wearing a sweatband is also worth the extra boost of protection.
Get a personal trainer
Suppose you ever find yourself unable to learn the advanced body forms during your exercise sessions, and you don’t want to injure yourself by not picking up vital information. In that case, a personal trainer can be a great option to help and provide you with undivided attention.
Personal trainers are not for everyone, and they come at a cost, but if you want to improve, this investment may be worth your money.
Consider the fitness center
Be picky about choosing a gym that has better acoustics or classes that allow for outdoor spaces at parks or quieter venues. It can make a difference in benefiting from the lessons and enjoying it more.
You may have to travel more, but for a better experience where you can interact more with others, hear your instructor clearly, and have fun, it might be worth the extra inconvenience.
Can deaf people work out?
Yes, anybody with hearing loss can work out. There may be more hearing barriers than most, but there are plenty of ways to overcome these hearing barriers to enjoy a good workout.
How can fitness be made more accessible for people with hearing loss?
- Avoid loud or distracting noises or background music.
- Provide visual cues or instructions to guide the class.
- Ensure that you’re facing the class as you speak.
- Avoid exercises that require closing your eyes without giving another sensory cue.
Like everything in life, enjoying your workout in the company of others requires self-advocacy, inclusive practices at fitness centers, and using tech to fill the gap.
Your health is essential, and you want to find ways that you can enjoy continuing to make your health and wellness a priority without the hearing loss barrier holding you back. By being aware of the challenges you’re experiencing and the ways that you can address them, you not only realize that you’re not alone with what you’ve gone through but also find ways to make your health and wellness fun and enjoyable.
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