I’m Here, Just Can’t Hear.

// September 8th, 2011 // Uncategorized

Riding without sound

The closest I have come to participating in sports without my hearing is to have biked or skied with my headphones in, and the volume too high.  I don’t use music all the time because most often I want to escape the noise of life and disappear into my thoughts or the sounds of nature.  I find that when I do have those headphones in, however, I am limited to a certain degree.  There are no “hi, how ya doin’ ” conversations, there is no hearing faster riders coming up on me, and if on the road it can become dangerous when I can’t hear traffic and especially large trucks coming full speed from behind.  Riding with headphones has shown me how much I rely on my ears socially as well as to add a margin of safety.

My friend, expert mountain biker Travis Colbert, told me a story of a race he competed in that took him up a steep dirt road into a headwind.  Looking back over his shoulder he saw another rider behind him benefiting in the form of a draft.  Further down the trail he noticed that this rider was still there in spite of his multiple comments and shouts to ask this rider to share the work load.  As Travis’s frustration grew he finally heard the words from behind – “I’m Deaf!” turning him from a feeling of frustration to one of forgiveness.  It was as though the other rider had said “I’m here to help, I just can’t hear what you’re asking me to do.”

This morning I had the opportunity to meet this rider (pictured at left) named John Klish, who has been deaf since birth.  John can read lips, sign, and with his rather large hearing aids even hear some, but maybe not all of a conversation.  John and I met to talk about some of the ins and outs of speaking professionally, authoring books, and participating in sports that take us to the top of our respective games.  I have no doubt that John, who will be turning pro soon in Mountain, Road and Cylclocross cycling, will also be successful as a professional triathlete.  While it is inspiring to see his passion, skill, and dedication to sports, I was more impressed with his desire to serve others who also wrestle with the challenges of hearing loss.  Keep an eye on John as he will certainly be a force on the circuit, but also look out for the good that he will be doing and passing on by way of his cycling and fitness camps for others who are deaf and hearing impaired.

To be honest I had not given much thought to how life might be, let alone on a bike, for someone who can’t hear.  My meeting today with John opened my ears and mind to others who live quite differently than I do.  I imagine that a life like that might mean that because one can’t hear, that person may be treated as if he or she is not here. I am looking forward to learning more, maybe even some signs.

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