Exercise and Hearing Loss: Becoming A Hearing Loss Boss

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Hearing loss to fitness boss! Today I’m here to tell you how to make the most of your workout with hearing loss, whether you use a cochlear implant, hearing aid, or bone-anchored hearing device.

Health is a big component of our life and maintaining diet and exercise is even more crucial than ever before. We are faced with a multitude of choices by the second, whether we choose making food at home or quickly picking up a chick-fil-et sandwich. Or choosing between a workout class or going home to catch up on your favorite tv shows. 

Choose an “easy” option or make the “right” choice. Today’s blog post will give you the tips you need to perform your best with hearing loss.

We know there are many health benefits to working out.  So, read on below to learn how you can prevent hearing loss from getting in your way and becoming your ‘excuse’. 

Let’s Start with the Dangers of Working Out: Can Exercise Cause Hearing Loss?

To cut right to the chase, yes, it is possible that exercise and loud music may cause hearing loss. Loud music and strenuous exercise combined cause pressure to the sensitive inner ear system destroying the hair cells causing a temporary threshold shift (TTS). 

Are you experiencing tinnitus too? Exercising with loud music for an hour may cause a TTS and tinnitus. Repetition of this over time will likely damage the hair cells permanently. 

While there are some potentially negative effects on hearing with exercise, the benefits outweigh the negatives in most cases. If you are unsure if exercising is right for you, consult your physician to assure the routine is safe and suitable for your health.

Why Should I Wear My Hearing Device While Working Out?

Huh? What? Pass to who? What move is next? If you can’t hear what’s being said by your trainer/coach/instructor how will you have an effective workout? I know personally not hearing what is said slows me down. I’m lost and confused! Being able to hear clearly is essential to performing well. Put your hearing devices on and get that workout in! Don’t let your hearing loss slow you down!

If you’re a runner like myself it is very important that you wear your devices for safety. Running with your hearing devices will help you feel safe, so you can hear cars and things happening around you. 

Many current hearing aids and cochlear implants are Bluetooth compatible which allows you to stream music to your hearing device. Use this feature with caution! Keep the volume at a reasonable level for safety. Music is a motivational factor for many of us who workout. Connecting your hearing devices to your phone with your Spotify playlist powers you through your best workouts. Do you have a favorite workout playlist? Share below!

Alright, What’s Your Advice For Working Out With Hearing Loss?

Break Out A Sweat – Not Your Hearing Devices

No doubt we worry about getting our hearing devices wet during physical activities. So, what’s the quick and easy answer? Take them out and put them in your pocket. No! Read below for tips to help you keep your devices on and to successfully complete your workout. 

Sweat is a hearing device’s worst culprit. Hearing devices are susceptible to moisture which can enter the circuitry causing the hearing aid to stop working. Using a drying jar (more on that below) will bring the hearing device back to life by reducing moisture, however most of the time the hearing device will end up needing to be sent in for repair or for replacement parts. 

Listed below are my tips to help prevent moisture build-up in hearing devices.

Cochlear Implants – Waterproof Options

(Speak to your audiologist or manufacturer representatives to learn which setup works best with your hearing devices)

Advanced Bionics – Neptune, completely waterproof off-the-ear body-worn device (seen in picture) or the AquaCase. Both have an IP68 rating which protects from dirt, water, and sand. The AquaCase is used with the Naida Q70 and Q90 devices. The new Marvel cochlear implant also has its own waterproof case.  

Cochlear Americas – Aqua+ or Aqua+Compact, a neoprene sleeve that fits your N6 or N7 processor. The device requires a waterproof headpiece. If you or your child wear a Kanso or Kanso2, Cochlear has a waterproof option, Aqua+, for the Kanso as well!

MedEl – WaterWear, which is a reusable waterproof cover that you slip your processor into and fix into place by a single-use adhesive strip. It allows for up to nine uses per sleeve. The WaterWear is used with the Sonnet 2, Sonnet, Opus 2, Rondo 2, and Samba.

All Hearing Devices – Prevent Moisture Buildup

Ear Gear

Ear Gear has been in the industry for 15 years providing hearing aid/BAHA/cochlear implant sleeves to protect your devices against damage from sweat, water, dirt, & more. These soft, acoustically transparent spandex sleeves often come with a stretchy cord, O-ring and durable strong locking clip, and are made to protect your devices from dirt, sweat, & moisture (not waterproof!). They even have a 1 year 100% unconditional guarantee AND you can even have one custom made! EarGear can be customized for a cochlear implant too!

Eargear for hearing aids and cochlear implants

Dry Box

Investing in a dry box is most often recommended and sometimes provided by manufacturers to help you take care of your device and maintain the longevity of your device. After the physical or wet activity it is recommended that you put the device in this type of drying machine. 

The most used and often recommended for cochlear implants is the Dry & Store, an electric drying box. Can be purchased here.

The most commonly used for hearing aids or bone-anchored hearing systems (BAHS) are disposable desiccate tabs that are placed in the provided jar to allow the hearing aids to dry overnight. There is a reusable option, which has microwavable beads that you can reactivate to use again and again.

A picture of hearing aid cases, drying jar/dry and store box, and ear gear for cochlear implant, BAHA, and hearing aids

Securing Your Hearing Devices: Accessories To Help Prevent Loss or Damage

Many of the hearing device manufacturers provide additional retention accessories to help secure and prevent loss or damage to the device. Reach out to your managing audiologist for what accessory would work best for your hearing device and workout needs. 

Provided by https://www.cochlear.com/us/en/home/products-and-accessories/our-accessories/securing-your-device

One of the most common is a retention cord that attaches to the hearing device on one end and on the other end clips to your shirt. This accessory prevents you from losing the device. Sometimes our hearing devices are not secure in/on our ears and they fall off. The retention cord will prevent the hearing device from falling to the ground and breaking. If you are a cochlear implant recipient, call your cochlear implant company and see what they have to offer you. Pictured above are some of Cochlear America’s available accessories. EarGear also makes cochlear implant retention cords.

The second most common is a headband. The cochlear implant manufacturers provide headbands designed specifically for their devices to help with retention. Etsy has some homemade options available, made by parents or deaf recipients. The headband is designed to secure the hearing device through an elastic loop or a material that secures/holds the device in place. The headband is usually adjustable to ensure comfort. Headbands that are too tight may cause pressure against your hearing device causing discomfort.  

The third, I personally recommend, a hat! Yes, just a plain old hat. Hats help keep the devices secure and in place while running. I never have to worry about them falling off my ears. Make sure to pick a hat that is adjustable. Hats that are too tight may cause pressure against your hearing device causing discomfort. 

Due to the pandemic, it’s likely you will be asked to wear a mask. The next topic below, Assistive Listening Devices, will be the best option for you to best hear your trainer, instructor, or running partner, whether that is in person or online. There is a way to connect your devices to audio from a computer or TV. Speak to your audiologist for more information regarding the best setup for your hearing needs.

Otherwise, if you have to wear a mask, why not support a friend in the Hard of Hearing community and make the invisible, visible. Let others know you are a proud cochlear implant user. Let’s learn to educate others.

Assistive Listening Device/Remote Microphones/FM or Roger Systems: Direct Streaming for A Better Workout 

Use of assistive listening device (ALD) technology is known to be the most effective method to improve speech recognition in noise of hearing aid and cochlear implant users. It can help you with your workout class, the workout video on your Bluetooth tech device, or during your long weekend run. 

Remote microphones, Bluetooth technology, and Roger/FM systems provide a wireless direct audio input to hearing aids that overcome the negative effects of:

  • Background noise
  • The sound distortions of distance from the sound source
  • Room reverberation

How Does the ALD Work?

Assistive Listening Devices (ALD) improve the signal (what you want to hear) to noise (what you want to block out) ratio (SNR). You will hear the speaker more clearly over the noise. For example, if you’re in a workout class, you would give your remote microphone or assistive listening device to the instructor (A+ for advocacy!), inform them of what the device is, how it works – let them know you will hear them talk the whole time, and why it’s important to you (you have hearing loss and you want the best workout possible!). Remote microphone technology can offset the loss of visual cues by bringing the target speech in clearer and directly to the hearing devices. 

Now you can move through your workout with ease because you are not depending on visual cues to help you hear over the noise, distance, and reverberation. 

Hydration & Energy Foods

I am not a fitness expert, but I do know that the longer the workouts the the more calories you need to fuel your body. If you run out, your performance will decline.

I like making sure I have a light and hearty meal before my workout (mostly long runs), like bagel with peanut butter, banana with peanut butter, oatmeal, or eggs and potatoes. I also supplement my daily diet with Modere liquid collagen Sport, which is said to improve joint mobility and lubrication (I’ve included in the link a shoppable list of my favorite Modere products – be sure to select only what you want) Use the code 5509578 to get $10 off!

During my long runs I use energy gels, electrolyte drinks, energy gummy bears, salt tablets, or tasty bars.

After you return from your workout you need to think about what you can do to aid in your body’s ability to recover more quickly. Fueling up with carbs and protein are often recommended.

3 Exercise Tips for Workout Classes

Samantha is standing in front of bougainvillea in her running gear and wearing her cochlear implant.
  1. Inform the instructor that you have a hearing loss and that you may need assistance or for them to repeat specifically to you if you’re looking like you missed what was said.
  2. Make sure you charge your remote microphone and any other rechargeable devices you might need before your workout. Refer to the section above about remote microphones and how they help you. Prepare a speech for how you plan to tell your instructor about your hearing loss and how they can help you along the way. #fitnessboss
  3. Use any of the above mentioned products to prevent sweat and moisture buildup and retention accessories to prevent loss or damage.
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Health professionals strongly recommend everyone incorporate exercise into their daily routine. There are many benefits in maintaining a consistent exercise regimen and we can now add hearing loss prevention to the list. Before starting a new fitness routine, consult your physician to assure the routine is safe and suitable for your health.

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