Sport has always played an important part in Richard’s life. Many of his close friendships have been made through playing or watching sports with people. The Englishman tells his story.
Following a head injury at the age of 30, which caused me severe hearing loss in my right ear, I had to cease contact sports. This meant playing rugby wasn’t an option for me anymore, but I continued to play golf, tennis and cricket. Hearing problems have played their part in my ability to participate in certain sports for a long time but, once I became profoundly deaf, I had to adapt to a very different scenario.
I had to learn a new way of playing sports
In 2009, I suddenly lost all hearing in my ‘good’ left ear and quickly became profoundly deaf. Despite this, I persevered and continued to play golf and watching my favourite sports. Little did I realise how important hearing is, even when playing golf in particular. I started to lose my ‘touch’ when playing delicate shots and a 6ft putt could turn into a 10ft return putt. I had to learn a new way of playing and practice to regain this ‘touch’. My friends would talk on my backswing, thinking I couldn’t hear, but I could always see their lips move!
During this period of deafness which lasted nearly two years, perhaps the most difficult part was the social side of things, as it was very difficult to participate in the social chat following a game. A white board and pen and learning to lipread helped to keep me in touch during this difficult period.
Having my cochlear implant in 2012 has enabled me to enjoy my participation in sport once more. Being able to hear again has made a huge difference. Being able to hear the sound of a ball on a club or a racquet really helps with the feel of the game. I now play golf, tennis and racquet ball without a problem.
Being prepared is key
There are some things I must think about that I didn’t have to before I lost my hearing. For instance, I always make sure I am prepared for different types of weather. I have a waterproof beanie to keep the noise of the wind and rain out, a bandana to keep my device on when on my boat. This can be time consuming but is a small price to pay in order to continue participating in my sporting activities.
I remove my audio processor, the external part of my implant, when in the gym or when I go swimming, but the silence is not an issue in a noisy gym. When playing racquetball, I wear a sports headband which keeps my hearing device in place and free of moisture.
There is no reason for hearing loss to diminish your enjoyment of sport and outdoor activities, especially if people are aware of it, you are adequately prepared, you have the right gear and you plan ahead.