Have you been diagnosed with hearing loss? If you think that diagnosis means giving up activities like hiking, think again. Every year millions of Americans head out on hiking trails and hearing loss doesn’t have to keep you from being one of them.
According to the American Hiking Society, over 34 million people hiked America’s trails in 2013. It is estimated that the number of hikers getting out on the cross-country web of trails has only continued to grow thanks to the many benefits of hiking that can be enjoyed no matter your hearing ability.
Relieve Stress and Anxiety
For many, hiking is an activity that can help ease the stress of daily life. Whether it’s the frustration of clearly understanding people throughout the day, life’s many responsibilities, rising medical costs or polarizing politics, a walk in nature has long been seen as an antidote. John Muir summed it up beautifully over a hundred years ago when he said, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” (John Muir, Our National Parks).
Scientists are now looking into the mental health benefits of spending time in nature, not just the mountains. Several small studies have indicated that walking in a natural setting vs. an urban setting may help reduce anxiety, improve cognition and even decrease the risk of depression.
Improve Cardiovascular Health
Experts recommend most adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Hearing loss doesn’t change this recommendation. Aerobic exercise can help improve total cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease. Hiking is a great way to add more blood pumping movement to your week and can be tailored to your level with the right trail. If you’re just getting started, opt for shorter and more level trails that can get you off the treadmill without risking over exertion. More advanced hikers and walkers can look for longer trails with more challenging terrain and hills. Always talk to your physician about the best activity level for you before getting started.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
We often learn that as we age that achieving and maintaining a healthy weight takes a little more work than it did at 20. If a diagnosis of hearing loss has been a transition for you, it may be time to get back on track with that healthy weight and hiking can help.
Hiking isn’t just a good aerobic exercise. It is also a total body workout that can help build muscle and core strength. This added muscle burns even more calories making it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
Hiking with Hearing Loss
Whatever your level of hearing, going for a hike can be an enjoyable pastime with a wealth benefits. When hiking with hearing loss, these tips can help:
- Be prepared – Get familiar with your trail before you head out and bring a map or GPS device to help stay on track. Not all trails are well marked and getting clear directions from other hikers, or park rangers may be difficult depending upon hearing ability.
- Hike with a friend – This is good advice for anyone hitting the trails. A hiking partner can help navigate, get assistance in the event of an emergency and offer companionship along the way.
- Use your senses – Tune into the environment and those around you with all your senses. Regularly scan the trail around and behind you to ensure you’re aware of others and the trail. Smells and the feel of steps on the ground can also alert you to other hikers nearby.
Don’t let the loss of hearing keep you from hiking and other activities you enjoy. Head out into nature today and reap the rewards!