Hiking is an excellent way to get your daily dose of physical activity while enjoying the outdoors. Walking the trails delivers an effective workout, let’s you see beautiful, blooming flowers, since you wear hearing aids you can hear the birds singing, brooks babbling and bees and other insects buzzing and feel the warm sun while you're at it. However, untreated hearing loss can make this pastime more difficult, because your hearing plays an integral role in safety. The military says up to 60% of your situational awareness comes from your hearing. Use these tips to navigate the trails...
Stick to the right side of the trail
Similar to the rules of the road, hiking best practices call for walking on the right side of the trail. For those with adequate hearing, the shuffling of footsteps signals that someone is approaching. With untreated hearing loss, you aren’t able to pick up this forewarning and zig when you should have zagged causing a collision. Following the stay-to-the-right rule helps ensure you won't get tripped up, injured or cause a collision by standing in the path of other hikers or bikers.
That being said, this is only possible if the walking path is wide enough to let people pass on your left. When you're hiking narrow trails, fellow adventurers will deliver a verbal warning of their approach. They might call out a friendly "On your left!" as your cue to temporarily step off the trail and allow them to go by. If you can't hear, the verbal warning can’t serve its purpose, which brings us to point No. 2.
Let others know you have hearing loss
When your hearing is impaired, a polite "excuse me" from a passing hiker may go unnoticed. If you feel comfortable doing so, consider letting other people know you have trouble hearing with a visual cue. Wear a button or shirt that indicates you have hearing loss so others will know that you aren’t rude, they just need to grab your attention before speaking.
Bring a map or GPS
While many trails have markers, extreme hikers may venture onto paths that don't offer much direction. Even areas that are family-friendly may still prove difficult to navigate. You can always ask park rangers or other hikers for directions, but those with hearing loss may have difficulty discerning their responses.
Instead of relying on other people to guide you to safety, bring along a map or digital GPS. These tools will help ensure you won't get lost.
Be aware of your surroundings
Your ears play an important role in remaining aware of your surroundings. For instance, the sound of rustling leaves lets you know an animal is nearby. Meanwhile, the roar of water or splashing waves may signal a waterfall is up ahead. Those with hearing impairment may not be able to pick up these signals, so they must rely on their other senses.
When hiking, look over your shoulder every so often to see what's behind you, as you might not hear approaching footsteps or a curious raccoon following your trail. Additionally, bring binoculars to help you see what lies ahead.
If, like many people, you waited a long time before finally getting hearing aids and you have only been wearing them for a short time, hearing and identifying sounds in nature is an excellent auditory rehabilitation exercise to help you get used to them. Don't let your hearing loss stop you from enjoying the great outdoors. Schedule an appointment with an audiologist or hearing health specialist to determine if you'd benefit from hearing aids, and these professionals can also offer tips on how to live a fulfilling lifestyle with this condition.
If you are concerned about hearing loss, for yourself or someone important to you, the audiologists and hearing health care professionals at AccuQuest can help. Contact your local AccuQuest Hearing Center to schedule a hearing test and consultation.