Exercising safely with hearing or vision impairment

Exercising challenges from hearing or vision impairment can start out small. Maybe your glasses slide down while you’re jogging, or you can’t always hear what a friend is saying as you walk together.

As challenges increase, they can make activities so hard or unpleasant that you don’t want to do them anymore, or they can put your health and safety at risk. Before it gets to that point, identify difficulties and take steps to resolve them.

Vision impairment

Vision problems can affect your ability to exercise in many ways. For example, you might not be able to see the instructor in an exercise class. And certain eye problems can cause specific challenges.

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If you have central vision loss (macular degeneration): “You might have trouble walking on uneven surfaces or navigating obstacles while on a bicycle. And sports such as tennis and golf may no longer be possible,” says optometrist Amy Watts, director of the Vision Rehabilitation Service at Harvard-affiliated Mass Eye and Ear.

If you have peripheral (side) vision loss (glaucoma): “You can easily miss steps and curbs while walking or running on uneven surfaces,” Watts notes. “While you’re hiking in wooded areas, your side vision might not detect branches until you run into them.”

If you’re slightly nearsighted or farsighted: Exercising can be uncomfortable with eyeglasses on. Some people take them off to work out. “That’s not usually a problem,” Watts says. “However, without their glasses, people with particularly poor eyesight have an increased risk of falling.”

Hearing impairment

Hearing impairment also has numerous effects on exercise. One is that people with hearing loss can have impaired balance: the ear also contains an important balance center. That makes any movement challenging and increases the risk for falls.

Other problems are related to awareness of your environment. For example:

Missing hazards. “If you’re running and crossing the road, you might not hear vehicles around you. Or you might have difficulty identifying the direction of a particular sound, like a siren — you may think it’s coming from the left when it’s really coming from the right,” says Meaghan Reed, director of Clinical Audiology at Mass Eye and Ear.

Missing instructions. “Exercise classrooms with high ceilings and hard floors can increase background noise, which makes it harder to understand an instructor. Loud music can also be a problem,” Reed says.

Feeling isolated. You might feel left out if you can’t hear other people during activities — even if you’re wearing hearing aids. “Hearing aids are optimized for six to eight feet. On a golf course, if you’re farther than six or eight feet from others, you might not hear them — especially if it’s windy,” Reed notes.

Experiencing equipment failure. When you exercise, sweat and moisture can get into a hearing aid and cause it to malfunction.

Simple fixes

A small adjustment could be all it takes to keep you active and exercising.

If balance is a problem, stick to stationary equipment that allows you to hold on, such as a stationary bicycle or an elliptical trainer. Or try seated exercise, such as chair yoga.

On a walk, take a buddy to act as an extra set of eyes and ears, and walk on smooth pavement, such as paved paths or tracks.

During an exercise class, stand (or sit) in the front of the room and away from loud music. Mention vision or hearing challenges in advance to the instructor, who can check that you’re following along during class. “If you have a hard time understanding exercise instructions, ask the teacher to rephrase something rather than just repeat it,” Reed says.

Equipment changes

In some cases, you might need to adjust your equipment to keep exercising with hearing or vision impairment.

If you wear eyeglasses during exercise, consider getting either an elastic strap to hold your glasses in place or a pair of prescription sports glasses. “The temples wrap around the ear farther than regular glasses, which prevents the frames from sliding down if you’re sweating. The glasses may also come with a strap to help hold them in place. And some sports glasses have lenses that wrap around the eyes to block glare from the sides and protect the eyes from wind and debris,” Watts says. She recommends contact lenses as an alternative.

If you wear a hearing aid, consider getting a remote microphone that your exercise buddy or instructor can use; the person’s voice will be transmitted to your device. And if sweat is affecting your hearing aid, there are tools that can help. “Get ‘dry kits’ or electric dehumidifiers to dry out the moisture,” Reed says. “That may help prolong the life of the hearing aid.”

Whatever the challenge, your clinician will have suggestions to help you keep exercising. It’s especially important that you do, since both vision and hearing loss are associated with inactivity and an increased risk for chronic disease.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.

Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

2 Corinthians 10:15-16 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Ephesians 1:17-18 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, read more

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