Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Riding in Traffic and Deafness

Yesterday I visited the Hansaton Office here in Taipei to meet the Taiwanese representatives for the first time. Nicky was the main point of contact for me and assisted me with the adjustment of my hearing aids and made an appointment for fitting of a new set of hearing aids - with the award winning Espria system. It is the world's smallest hearing behind-the-ear aid and comes equipped with blue-tooth technology. I am quite excited to be trying out this new product finally. Although my fear is that it might not be powerful, for me (as my hearing loss is 90 decibels and higher), enough for general usage. It may be ideal for the quiet situations such as using the lap-top, television, phone and other media systems.
I won't be able to use this system whilst out riding, as it is too delicate and would be ultra sensitive to the sweat I put out whilst training.

People often wonder how I cope with being Deaf and riding in traffic. Often they are amazed that I would still venture out as in their minds, riding without hearing is dangerous. Most people rely on their hearing to hear approaching traffic, while I have to rely on my visual ability to survive on training rides amongst traffic.

Tips for riding in traffic without hearing:
  • Always be on the look-out and be proactive - I am constantly checking behind and around me for on-coming traffic
  • Be confident and use hand-signals/eye contact with drivers. You will find that most drivers let you into spaces if you let them know early enough about your intentions. When a driver lets you into space that they could have claimed, always thank them with the thumbs up gesture (works well in most countries)
  • Ride predictably and in straight lines. This works for hearing people too, although they can react to approaching noise by moving out of the way
For the most part, I don't have any major issues when out riding due to my hearing loss. Sometimes I don't even have my hearing aids on, but hearing nothing at all does not affect me. I will also race without hearing aids, depending on the weather (raining or too hot). Sometimes, I get yelled at in the peloton, but I have no idea what they are yelling about. I will wear one hearing aid mostly so that if someone does talk to me, I can at least communicate. In group rides, I will try to wear both hearing aids and participate in the social aspect of the ride as much as I can.



Hi Dan.
I have very good hearing but I also have a very good sense of safety so...I have a helmet mirror.
It means I can easily scan the traffic behind me as I ride(I train, commute and race about 9k kms a year). I feel a lot safer with it and there has been times when I've seen a vehicle coming so close I've literally got off the road as they would've hit me.
Have you heard of helmet mirrors?
Ever thought about using one?

Regards, FF

Daniel Sato said...

Dan -

This is a great post! It really has implications for hearing riders as well, because so many people choose to train with headphones on.

Daniel said...

Yes I have seen those helmet mirrors, and it seems like it might be a good idea to try them out. Although I have not seen too many pro riders with them on. I guess when commuting in heavy traffic it would make good sense to see what is going on behind you easily without having to turn around and look!

Yes, that's true about people training with head-phones! Most people can't train without them as they need something blasting in there ears to keep motivation going. I often listen to silence and its an opportunity for me to reflect and focus on the training. I have used the I-pod from time to time and while its nice to listen to music while riding, its not essential.