Can You Do Yoga With A Hearing Loss?

I love yoga! Not only is it fun, but I find the health benefits to be extraordinary. My yoga practice saved me from real injury during a fall last year, and I think that it, combined with meditation, has helped calm the severity of my tinnitus. I recommend yoga to everyone I meet — whether they have hearing loss or not!

But sometimes people with hearing loss are skeptical. They wonder, “How will I be able to follow along in class if I can’t hear the instructor? or “Will my hearing aids stay on during the postures?” Or “Will the classes be too loud?” These are all real concerns, but ones that can be offset by choosing the right class with an understanding instructor.

downward-dog-pose-at-yoga-class-Divine-Wellbeing-Wagga

I practice Bikram Yoga, which takes place in a heated room. I like it because it is quiet — no music or other distractions. The teachers do not demonstrate the postures, but guide the class with their voice, often wearing a microphone headset so they are heard throughout the room. The class is identical every time, so I always know what posture is coming next, and there are mirrors in the front of the room so I can easily see when the class is moving in and out of a posture. But the heat is not for everyone.

I have also attended other types of yoga classes, some with more success than others. How much I enjoy the class always comes down to the quality of the instructor, my familiarity with the postures ahead of time, and my ability to just relax and go with the flow. My hearing loss is usually not a big factor, unless I let it be.

Here are my tips for practicing yoga with a hearing loss.

BEFORE YOU START

1. Do your research. Yoga has gotten so popular that there are likely several studios in your town. Visit them and ask the manager to recommend classes and instructors that avoid loud music, and that tend to repeat the same series of postures in each class. Tell them about your hearing loss — there may be other students in the same boat. Ask which classes attract students with a broad range of ages and abilities — this will make class less intimidating.

2. Take an intro class or a few private lessons first. Most studios offer new student workshops on a monthly or more frequent basis. This is a great way to learn the basics in a smaller setting where hearing will be easier and one-on-one attention is the norm. Familiarity with the postures will give you confidence before heading into a group class. If new student classes are not available, you can always try a beginning yoga DVD at home to learn some of the basics.

AT CLASS

1. Talk to the teacher before class. Tell the teacher at the start of class about your hearing loss and ask for the best place to set up your mat based on where the teacher will be spending most of his or her time. This knowledge will also allow the teacher to give you extra assistance if you seem to be missing something.

Expert tip: There may be a line to talk to the teacher. Many students will discuss physical limitations such as an injury or illness with the yoga teacher before class — you discussing your hearing loss will not appear odd at all.

2. Set up your mat in the middle of the room. Here, you can watch people in front of you if you don’t hear the teacher’s instructions AND you can see other yogis behind you or to the side if you are doing postures where you are not facing forward.

3. Go with the flow. Hey, it’s only yoga! Who cares if you are behind in transitioning from posture to posture or your postures don’t look ready for competition. This is about your health and mental wellbeing and nothing other than that is really important. Plus, it gets easier the more you do it. Don’t expect perfection early on.

4. Be persistent. The first class you try might not be the one for you. Try another class or a different instructor or even a different style of yoga. It’s kind of like trying out hearing aids or princes — the first one you kiss might not be a good match.

Yoga is not for everyone, but if you are interested in trying it out or maintaining a regular practice, don’t let your hearing loss stop you. Not only are the physical benefits of yoga (stronger muscles and improved flexibility) important, the mental benefits are also numerous. Yoga at its best, combines physical postures with a philosophy of patience and self-acceptance, which can come in very handy when dealing with the day-to-day frustrations of hearing loss. I know it does for me.

Readers, have you tried yoga?

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46 thoughts on “Can You Do Yoga With A Hearing Loss?

  1. I’m the mom to 2 special needs kids. A nearby gym offered special needs yoga. I signed the kids up. They LOVED it from the first try! There were 4 kids in the class & the other 2 moms needed to help their kids with positions. I watched. Then, we had 2 weeks off: Easter & the instructor was in a car crash. We were the only family who showed up after that. The instructor invited me to join them. I was unwilling at first. I am not only HOH on my right but deaf on my left and have some extreme vertigo problems. I joined in anyway. It was great! Yes, I wobbled a lot but I felt so goo afterwards from the stretching! Now the class is over but we are using a beginners video at home on Amazon Prime. Which reminds me–it’s time to do it now! Bye!

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  2. Thanks Shari, Good suggestions. I do Pilates, not Yoga, but the same suggestions apply.
    Especially important is to do a couple of private sessions first, so that you get the idea of the correct posture, focus, etc.
    In addition to positioning yourself in the middle of people, be sure you can see the teacher.
    Also if you wear a cochlear implant you may have to wear a headband to keep it on. All that upside-down movement knocks my c.i. off immediately. I usually just wear my hearing aid.
    A familiar teacher, one whose voice you know, is your best bet. I can only hear certain things but they’re crucial: “reverse”, “head, neck and shoulders”. Even after four years I still basically follow those around me.

    Sometimes telling the teacher is not enough. Recently I decided to try a Yoga class. I told the teacher about my hearing loss. He said fine, that he always indicated “Level 1”, “Level 2” etc in terms of difficulty. Of course I couldn’t hear “Level 1” and as it turned out I was next to someone who was Level 3. Disaster! I never went back to that class.

    One more thing: if you have dizziness or vertigo, as I do, Pilates and yoga are good for balance.

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  3. I love yoga and followed classes once a week. This went well, also because my teacher was very understanding. The only problem I had was the sweating. Sometimes I sweated so much (esp. in Summer) that it run straight into my ears. And then my hearing aids protested. Sometimes stopped working for a while, until they were dry again. But I took care to have a place in front and preferably in the middle, so I could watch my fellow students on both sides as well and could copy the moves.
    Unfortunately I can’t do yoga anymore, because of arthrosis in my hips, but I still do gymnastics twice a week and it really depends on the teacher wheter it works or not.

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  4. I tried it once also. However my issue was with the music and the soft speaking. I spoke to the teacher before class and mentioned I was hearing impaired and asked her to speak up. She felt that was a problem because there was a certain tone of voice she thought was appropriate. I attended the class once, but found I mostly heard the music and not her instructions. I haven’t been back again. Based on all these comments, I think I might try again. There are other instructors I can try.

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  5. Some years ago I took yoga from an instructor in Iyengar yoga. She used blocks, blankets and belts to assist students in getting into poses and hold them. It was interesting and I had fun and it helped my old arthritic body feel better. Alas, I did not keep up on my own except to use 5 or 6 poses to “stretch” after exercising which I do keep up. If you observed me doing my “yoga” you would never imagine that was what I was doing :-). My body no longer bends the way it once did, so I go as far as I can and that seems to count. What I do does pay off in the way I feel. I agree that the meditative element in yoga is as valuable as the positions themselves.

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  6. I have hearing loss and have been doing yoga for 10 years. I practiced in big class room settings with various types of teachers and styles. Music and soft spoken teachers are the biggest challenges. What I found through my own practice, was that I got more out of the practice of yoga doing Mysore Ashtanga with a teacher. Mysore is a self lead class where you practice and memorize the poses under the instruction of a teacher, it is more like a one on one. There is no music and very little speaking unless you are being instructed individually. Its really a great practice with very little distraction.

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  7. if sweat and perspiration is an issue, look into getting Ear Gear socks for your hearing aids. These nylon spandex socks are sweat proof, and will assist with protecting your hearing aids. Plus they come in a range of colors that will match your yoga outfits. Also Ear Gear is washable and so just put the little socks in the wash when they need cleaning. A cheap investment which can save you heaps of repair and or replacement costs.

    If hearing aids falling out is an issue, there are Ear Gear sleeves which come with cords and clip. This way the aids can be clipped to the back collar of your shirt/top etc.

    http://www.gearforears.com is family owned and operated company based in Canada, but has dealers all over the USA and Canada and overseas. The product is FANTASTIC, even kids love the Ea Gear socks to protect the hearing aids from sweat, moisture, dust, wind noise.

    Also if a person does have issues with sweat and perspiration damaging hearing aids or causing issues, PLEASE look into getting a good quality dry and store unit that has a UV lamp and warm/hot air to dry and sanitize your hearing aids. I quality Dry and Store unit is critical. You might pay between $100.00 and $225.00 for a quality drying unit, but is is worth the investment for your hearing aids. (The little plastic containers with the little descant disks are “okay” good for traveling possibly but not that effective long term…)

    Cheers
    Ted

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  8. I used to attend yoga classes regularly but found as my hearing deteriorated that it has become more and more difficult. Despite letting the instructors know up front, I found not hearing has greatly diminished the experience for me.

    The first thing that became absent was the soothing music they would have playing in the background. Although you don’t have that in your Bikram class, and it’s not really necessary, having some Ravi Shankar or some new-age type music in the background can and has enhanced the experience.

    Next it was the sound of the instructor’s voice to go. Some yoga instructors don’t just tell you what poses to do but go into deeper explanations and background, and I have been sorry to miss out on that. No matter how close I sit to them and even when they have made an effort to walk around and come closer, I cannot hear them. I found that having to depend on watching those around me to see what we were supposed to be doing is very distracting. I like to concentrate on what I am doing and not focus on those around me. But when you have to watch everyone else to see what is going on, I am no longer going inward but lose my focus.
    Without having to constantly look around or keep my eyes open, I can’t tell you how many times I found myself still holding a position when others had long moved on, or sitting there still “Om-ing” after everyone has stopped (talk about embarrassing!).

    The worst experience though was at a studio I used to like but no longer go to, when one time a man with profound hearing loss showed up for his very first class ever at his doctor’s recommendation. The instructor put us together off to one side, saying to me “You’re deaf too, you can help him”.!!! The whole time his hearing aid was shrieking loudly and he didn’t know it, plus he was struggling with the poses, while she remained up front making annoyed faces. I felt terrible for him and angry at her. At the end of the class, she told him he should take private lessons. I walked out and never returned to one of her classes again.

    I have tried continuing my practice at home, using headphones, but they fall off the minute I go into a downward dog.

    In my dream yoga class, the instructor would speak into headphones that would stream directly into my hearing aids. Wouldn’t that be great? Maybe some day…..

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    • I love your idea, I hope it happens sooner than later as that is my dream yoga class too! I also miss the explanations and have to look around, I agree your focus goes out instead of within. BUT I still go the yoga studio as much as possible as I still love it and get so much out of it. It really is my anti-depressant!

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  9. I do some yoga with my exercises every day. I can’t go to a class for the reasons you and everyone here have mentioned. My daughter is a yoga instructor and I went to her classes…sadly she has moved 1000 miles away. So it is a little far to go to here classes. But when she comes home she gives me tips. You would think in this time period we live in there would be more help for the HOH….Thanks as always for you input and all you do!

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  10. Yoga seems to be the “thing” I’m seeing everywhere lately Shari – maybe the universe is trying to tell me something – obviously if hearing loss isn’t an excuse – never having tried isn’t going to work for much longer either!

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  11. I have moderate to severe hearing loss and wear hearing aids. I’ve been going to yoga for a year now and I LOVE it!!! I often don’t hear the teachers instructions, but manage to keep up. I place myself near the front so I can hear the teacher better, but always have people around me so I can watch and learn. I try to sit by someone who looks like they know what they are doing. The postures are usually in a similar sequence each class. It’s rewarding and stress releasing to work at something that doesn’t really require hearing. So many activities I participate in require hearing and with yoga I mostly watch and follow. I was thinking of becoming an instructor just so I could have a class for students with hearing loss. It could have a loop and I would wear an FM/blue tooth mic. Maybe someday!?

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  12. I love this post, as I believe everyone can and should do yoga. It’s a wonderful practice that we all can appreciate in our own ways. I’m so glad you’re showing your audience there are no obstacles — not weight, nor lack of flexibility, or even hearing loss.

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  13. Hi Shari,
    I know people who use a hearing aide and people who need a hearing aide. All are vain about the idea. Their ego gets affected.
    Thanks for visiting my site on Tuesday! By the way, I know Donna and Christina.
    Janice

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  14. Hello!! I am 16, I have hearing aids and I have been doing yoga for two years. My hearing aids work perfectly fine in yoga & don’t fall out, my hearing aids are phonak and I love them! I’ve never had a problem at yoga, I go four times a week to power vinyasa!

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  15. I was doing yoga until I hurt my hip. I hope to return to Yoga soon. I’m 69 and HOH and deaf in my left ear. I found it to be very helpful with my posture and balance. I have Phonac and BiCros hearing aids along with Assisted Listening Devices -ALD’s: ComPilot and RemoteMic. I just ask the instructor to wear the RemoteMic clipped to her top and her voice comes directly into my hearing aid via bluetooth ComPilot device. There are other manufacturers of these ALD’s for other brands of hearing aids.

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  16. Like Judy, I bought a remote mic to work with my Phonak ComPilot to help me with yoga classes. What a difference! The ComPilot sometimes gets a little in the way, but for the most part I can relax and close my eyes and participate in class without trying to watch someone else all the time. My wonderful yoga teacher told me after my first assisted class how lovely it was to see me just doing yoga, not twisting myself out of position to be watching her or others. Yes!

    Another benefit has been that the teacher’s use of the mic has led participants to ask me about it. “My brother could use something like this”, or other remarks help me think that I may be helping others by helping myself. I like visible remote devices in general for this reason–helps make the invisible visible and invites questions.

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  17. I have a very hard time hearing and not feeling self conscious. Maybe I should try it again.

    Maybe we should have open captioned yoga at the HLAA convention.

    And a whole other can of worms is spin like FlyWheel and Soul Cycle. Those places are so loud! There’s no way a minimic would help. I wish they would caption what the teachers are saying.

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