Winter is most definitely here and that means taking special care on icy sidewalks and slippery driveways, and keeping those fingers, toes and noses warm.
For people with hearing loss, there may be other safety issues.
Wearing a hat that covers the ears affects how well you hear. It’s like putting your hands over your ears to block unwanted sound.
Wind, rain and even snow are noisy and will affect how you hear. Nature can easily drown out other sounds.
Traffic noise is louder when the roads are wet.
Snowplows, snow blowers and shovels scraping on sidewalks are noisy.
All this means your eyes are more important than ever in keeping you safe outdoors. But if you wear a coat or parka with a hood, that can affect your vision, especially your peripheral vision. You may need to turn your whole body to check for oncoming traffic.
These are all pretty routine precautions the deaf and hard of hearing should take.
For cochlear implant users, weather poses additional challenges.
A cochlear implant has an earpiece and a magnet attaching the device to the implanted component. The exterior magnet cannot be too strong because it will damage the skin. That means it’s fairly lightly attached. When I take off a hat or scarf, or pull a sweater over my head, it’s very likely to sweep the c.i. off with it. It flies across the floor or into the street or even into the path of oncoming traffic. This is not something they tell you in the c.i. manuals.
If you are unlucky enough to slip on ice or snow and hit your head, the c.i. may also fly off. I lost one that way on a blustery evening. (My head hurt too.)
If you’re not wearing a hat on a windy day, the wind itself can dislodge the earpiece. That happened to me on a ferry last summer. A gust of wind swept my hair and the implant flew right off. Fortunately, the deck of the ferry was metal and so the magnet stuck to the metal deck instead of skittering overboard.
Tight hats or headbands can also be a problem. For me, they put pressure on my hearing aid ear, making it uncomfortable and sometimes evoking a squeal. If I hold an umbrella too close to my head, the spokes act as a magnet and pull the c.i. off.
So what’s the solution? Nothing very insightful. Be careful. Make sure you’re aware of your surroundings at all times. Take your hats, scarves and sweaters off carefully. Don’t wear your cochlear implant out in the wind (especially near water) unless you’re also wearing a hat or scarf to anchor it.
What are your weather-related stories? Advice for others? Please share.