Quiet perseverance: Olympians overcoming hearing obstacles

Olympians are no strangers to seemingly insurmountable challenges. Thankfully, hearing loss is no longer one such challenge for athletes wishing to compete at the highest level. Competitors at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris are showing that people can excel at all sports despite apparent barriers, thanks to advanced and readily available technologies such as hearing aids and implants.  

These athletes are not only inspiring future generations of sports stars, but are also helping to highlight the fact that hearing loss, when treated with timely and appropriate interventions, does not need to limit a person’s quality of life or their potential. 

Game on: How hearing-impaired athletes stay competitive 

Naturally, playing sports with hearing loss presents many challenges, whether it’s communicating with team members over the noise of a cheering crowd, to hearing musical cues for events such as Olympic skating and gymnastics, and especially the danger of not hearing traffic noise for cyclists or runners with hearing loss. Yet over the years, many athletes with hearing loss have broken through the ranks to rise to the top. 

Research into elite European athletes with hearing loss carried out in 2011 found that the majority overcome these communication barriers by using hearing aids to participate in their respective sports. The study found that the vast majority (over 83 per cent) of the hard of hearing athletes spoken to confirmed that their hearing aid not only helped them in terms of ease of communicating but also when it came to providing better perception of background sounds.

Advances in technology and design have ensured that hearing aids are becoming even more invaluable for competitive athletes; for example, some hearing aids are equipped with special adaptations for athletic lifestyles to keep them securely in place during intense activity or ensure they dry safely after sports.  

Athletes with hearing loss compete at the Olympic Games

Competitors with hearing loss have represented their countries at many Olympic games. For example, David Smith, a member of the US men’s volleyball team, has severe hearing loss, yet with the use of a hearing aid to communicate effectively with his teammates, he has competed in multiple Olympic Games. 

Diksha Dagar, a women’s golfer from India, will participate in this summer’s Paris Olympics. Diksha has a cochlear implant, and is the only golfer to have appeared in both the Olympics and the Deaflympics, where she is a two-time medallist.  

Hearing interventions open doors to success in elite sport 

Hearing aids will be on show at the Paris 2024 games and other major sporting events as athletes with hearing loss can avail of the same opportunities as those without hearing impairment. Modern day hearing aids and cochlear implants are helping to break down perceived barriers when it comes to hearing loss and elite sport. Athletes who use hearing aids and implants are transforming perceptions of disability in sports and promoting inclusivity, while also helping to inspire young people, with and without hearing loss.

Skip to content