If you are hard of hearing, or are close to someone who is, then you’ll probably be all too familiar with the feelings of social isolation it can bring about. But there are things you can do to help combat this. One such activity is sports. Not only does it keep you fit and healthy, it can also grant you new-found confidence as you master new skills and push your own limits. And, of course, it’s an ideal opportunity for meeting new people! If your hearing loss has been preventing you from being active, you’ll be pleased to know that’s not necessary. We asked various sport clubs and associations what they’re doing to make sure those with hearing loss can participate.
Deaf Sports Australia is a body that facilitates and supports athletic participation by deaf and hard of hearing Australians. It acts as an advisor for sports clubs to help them better accommodate members with hearing loss. Deaf Sports Australia oversees the Australian Deaf Games and the organisation of the Australian Deaflympics team. It advocates sports teams displaying information visually where possible by using electronic signs, whiteboards, laptops and even written notes.
Deaf Sports Australia encourages teams to support hard of hearing players by asking them how they would like to communicate, speaking clearly while facing the hard of hearing player, and using touch to gain attention.
What are the benefits of sport for the hard of hearing community?
‘Deaf and hard of hearing people can enjoy numerous benefits from joining sports teams,’ says the organisation. As sport is mainly visual communication between team members doesn’t rely on perfect hearing. Conversely, says Deaf Sports Australia, hard of hearing players can even improve the quality of communication, especially if they incorporate the use of Auslan (Australian Sign Language).
Softball Australia is the national governing body for softball. Its members play, coach, officiate and support softball in eight states and territories. Part of their role is to ensure the sport is played at all levels by people of all ages and abilities.
What are the benefits of softball for the hard of hearing?
‘Many softball members get hooked on the excitement of the game and enjoy life long participation,’ explain the softball enthusiasts. As softball is a team sport, it’s great for building social connections. The basic skills of the game, such as catching, throwing, hitting, running and strategy, can all be learned through visual cues. Softball Australia assures any interested parties that hearing loss won’t affect your ability to participate. Softball clubs are known to be welcoming and inclusive, says the organisation, and most have multiple levels of competition. You’ll usually be placed based on your skill level, so your hearing loss won’t be a barrier. Softball Australia is always happy to provide deaf and hard of hearing people with details of their local clubs so you can find a place to play.
Ski & Snowboard Australia
Ski and Snowboard Australia (SSA) is the nationally and internationally recognised authority governing competitive snow sports. It is closely affiliated with Disabled Winter Sports Australia, which enables people with a wide variety of impairments, including hearing loss, to participate in skiing and snowboarding. Their services include instructors who are trained to work with people with hearing impairments, using other visual cues to teach lessons on snow. SSA conducts events and programs in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding and para-wintersports.
What are the benefits of skiing and snowboarding for the hard of hearing?
Skiing and snowboarding build confidence and self-esteem by improving your fitness, balance and motor skills. There’s also not a great deal of communication required – you don’t need to be able to hear to focus on your technique and connect with the beauty of the outdoor environment. These are benefits that all participants share, so hearing loss is no barrier to taking part in winter sports.
Swimming Australia is the peak body for swimming, encouraging participation by all from grass roots level through to the elite swimmers who represent our country. It currently has a membership of 90,000 individuals and almost 1,000 clubs.
Swimming Australia has a close association with Deaf Sports Australia, and ensures that hard of hearing swimmers can compete in multi-class competition. Measures taken include using light or touch signals rather than sound cues to start races. Clubs are also supported with resources on how to make themselves more accessible to the hard of hearing swimming community.
What are the benefits of swimming for the hard of hearing?
Aside from the obvious physical benefits, it’s a great way to build personal and social confidence, says Swimming Australia. Part of this is the level of independence swimming brings. If you suffer from hearing loss, you may often find yourself reliant on other people. However, swimming is an activity that you can safely immerse yourself in without needing that support. ‘Communicating by sign can be done under the water,’ encourages Swimming Australia, ‘a great way to have some fun with the rest of the team or with an instructor.’
Archery Australia Inc represents Australian archery nationally and internationally, and organises a variety of national archery championships for different disciplines, equipment styles and age ranges. It is committed to the provision of instruction, coaching, officiating and management of archery for participants at all levels. Clubs are the public face of the sport providing casual ‘Archery Come N Try’ events, as well as advanced coaching. Clubs also provide regular social and competitive competitions, which can be a great way to meet new people.
What are the benefits of archery for the hard of hearing?
Archery is a sport that caters for everyone, regardless of age, ability level or interest. Members range from high-performance athletes through to casual social participants – it’s a highly inclusive sport. Hearing loss is not a barrier to taking part. ‘Our member clubs regularly organise social and competitive tournaments for members of all abilities,’ says Archery Australia Inc.
Capital Football is the governing body of football (or soccer, as it’s often referred to in Australia) in the Nation’s Capital. It enables participants of all skill levels to enjoy football and has a close working relationship with Football-Connect, the All Ability League.
What are the benefits of football for the hard of hearing?
Football is a team sport, so it’s a great way to meet new friends. Training sessions are fun and allow for a competitive spirit within a safe environment. Football also offers opportunities for hard of hearing players to progress within the sport – Football-Connect has created pathway programs to assist players who want to try out for State and National tournaments.
New South Wales Water Ski Federation is a program enabling people to participate in water skiing. It holds regular open days for new participants, and provides training sessions with professional coaches and water skiers. People who want to take the sport further can possibly go on to compete in State, National and World Title competitions. For hard of hearing participants, there is a helmet that can be used to receive clearer instructions from the trainer in the boat. Alternatively, instructors can use hand signals to communicate with you.
What are the benefits of water skiing for the hard of hearing?
Water skiing is a great alternative sport that can operate on different levels, depending on what you feel comfortable with. You can choose to be towed behind the boat at a low speed or enjoy a faster pace where you can cross and jump the wake. It’s also a great opportunity to mix with other participants and instructors who understand the challenges hearing loss can incur. These are just some of the sports that people with hearing loss are enjoying across Australia. With a plethora of health benefits in keeping fit and active, don’t let hearing loss hold you back – get involved today!