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Old 04-28-08, 02:53 PM   #1
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Deaf cyclists? Unilateral or bilateral

The recent thread about Ipods brought up the point about deaf cyclists.

Are there any here?
Any that lost their hearing later in life and is able to do a before and after comparison?
Any experience with teaching deaf children (unilateral) how to cycle? Either on paths or roads.

Sorry if the questions are personal.
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Old 04-28-08, 06:24 PM   #2
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I think deaf cyclists have to be MUCH more careful. Drivers will ASSUME they can hear the car. We were in Rome last summer and had a private driver guide. We asked him about driving in Rome and right away he started complaining about pedestrians and cyclists. He said they were "irritating, they pretend they can't hear you coming". Later on he told us he had hit a cyclist in heavy bumper to bumper traffic at less than 5kph.. The next day I mentioned his accident and he said, "oh that, I was joking". I'm thinking what kind of joke is that! So I said, "but yesterday you told us you had hit one". Then he admits he did hit one and says, "it was nothing, it was nothing, just like I said Hello to him". When I asked more about what happened he said, "you have to understand sometimes they pretend they can't hear you and you have to touch them lightly to move them". I was freaking out, I couldn't believe anyone would say or do something like that. Then I said, "so you knew you were going to touch him?". He then said, "half and half, it was a mistake, I told him I was sorry".

So you see this guy just assumed the cyclist heard him and didn't move to give the driver a hard time.
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Old 04-28-08, 06:47 PM   #3
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Seems to me a rear-view mirror and a T-shirt that said "DEAF" on the back would go a good ways towards solving the problem.

I've thought about this on single-track hiking trails and hiking/biking trails as well- sometimes you hear people come up behind you, sometimes you don't. You could follow some guy for a mile assuming he was just an A-hole without that t-shirt.
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Old 04-28-08, 07:50 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by invisiblehand
The recent thread about Ipods brought up the point about deaf cyclists.

Are there any here?
Any that lost their hearing later in life and is able to do a before and after comparison?
Any experience with teaching deaf children (unilateral) how to cycle? Either on paths or roads.

Sorry if the questions are personal.

hopefully someone deaf will answer your question.

I worked for several years with the deaf community and though I never rode bikes with deaf riders I was a passenger in the car with deaf friends driving on many occasions. All were deaf since birth and had never grown dependent on their hearing. Keep in mind we were all signing simultaneously- so much of the steering of the car was done with the knees. And at night the dome light was often on and if someone is in the backseat the rear view mirror was adjusted to see the passengers in the back instead of what was behind us. I was apprehensive at first but it seemed to me my deaf friends visual acuity was so advanced they really were perfectly at ease and safe drivers. I imagine that ability would translate fine to riding a bike.
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Old 04-29-08, 12:05 AM   #5
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Thanks donnamb for telling me about this thread.
I'm a deaf cyclist myself. Mostly the biggest difference is that I would have to depend on my eyesight. Deaf people do generally have better visual acuity compared to hearing peoples, especially for moving objects. For this reason, I generally encourage all deaf cyclist (however few there are) to use take-a-look mirror (or similiar visual aid). Because with our improved visual ability, we have more of an advantage with the mirrors than most peoples normally get from them.

Now, I like the idea of a "deaf" shirt but hates the fact that I have to do that for improved safety. Peoples in general should just stop assuming that a cyclist can hear a car coming early enough to do anything when the truth is usually the opposite. There are risk to wearing that "deaf" shirt simply because some peoples thinks that deaf peoples are dumb and can't do anything back to them (I have already seen this attitude a number of time in the past, thankfully not during cycling yet).

Buzzman, seems you are lucky to have worked in a community with particularly good drivers. Most deafs I know (and I've been in quite a few deaf communities) are actually pretty lousy drivers despite their potentially better visual ability.

Maybe your community have better communication skill than most? I've noticed that deafs who don't have good communication skill are usually lousy at multi-tasking like driving and chatting at same time. (though I would be an exception since I only drives lousy when signing)

Sorry for getting slightly off-topic, i'm a bit sleepy and have to stay up a bit more before I can go to bed. Good night y'all.
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Old 04-29-08, 09:22 AM   #6
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I was apprehensive at first but it seemed to me my deaf friends visual acuity was so advanced they really were perfectly at ease and safe drivers. I imagine that ability would translate fine to riding a bike.
I recall a short blip that the brain will allocate more resources to the sense that work. The context was with blind people. They were able to demonstrate with a type of MRI/brain scan that sections of the brain typically allocated to vision where assigned to hearing among the population. Perhaps something similar occurred here.
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Old 04-29-08, 09:28 AM   #7
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I'm a deaf cyclist myself. Mostly the biggest difference is that I would have to depend on my eyesight. Deaf people do generally have better visual acuity compared to hearing peoples, especially for moving objects. For this reason, I generally encourage all deaf cyclist (however few there are) to use take-a-look mirror (or similiar visual aid). Because with our improved visual ability, we have more of an advantage with the mirrors than most peoples normally get from them.
OK. The mirror makes a lot of sense. I ask since a colleague has a child with a unilateral hearing impairment. I suggested that they go to Gallaudet for advice.
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Old 04-29-08, 06:12 PM   #8
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I'm hearing, yet I think that way too much emphasis is put on hearing while cycling. It's possible to hear upcoming cars if there is little or no wind and if there are few cars to deal with. But I think that the last times I was in such situations were during a tour two years ago... and when I ride at midnight. In city traffic or on a busy or semi-busy road, I can't say from the constant rumble if there is a car closing on me, if it is in my lane, etc. On the other hand, the rearview mirror gives me all this information.
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Old 04-29-08, 06:47 PM   #9
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Hearing is a really lousy way to get information about things that you can't see. It is a crude indicator at best, and no substitute for looking.

When approaching anyone from behind, be it pedestrian, motor vehicle or bicyclist, you should not expect them to hear you, nor take any action whatsoever based on your presence other than to hold their line, or if they are going to divert from it, to look behind first and wait if someone is passing. The fact that many people don't has nothing to do with whether or not they can hear you, but purely that they are not using their brains and the eyes connected to them.

I no more expect cyclists to sound their bell to warn pedestrians that they're passing, than I expect motorists to sound their horn when passing cyclists. Apart from the resposibilities of the passing vehicle, if people would just HOLD THEIR LINE AND LOOK BEFORE MOVING FROM IT, like they're supposed to, passing conflicts would be vitually unheard of.
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Old 04-29-08, 06:49 PM   #10
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When approaching anyone from behind, be it pedestrian, motor vehicle or bicyclist, you should not expect them to hear you, nor take any action whatsoever based on your presence other than to hold their line
Unless you are an emergency vehicle driver. Of course you don't assume you are heard or seen, but you do want to be heard and/or seen and do expect action beyond holding a line once your presence is noted.

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Old 04-29-08, 07:21 PM   #11
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Unless you are an emergency vehicle driver. Of course you don't assume you are heard or seen, but you do want to be heard and/or seen and do expect action beyond holding a line once your presence is noted.

Al
Granted, but a) I've never had a problem hearing a siren over my headphones - those buggers are LOUD, and b) it's only ever a preliminary warning - you should always visually confirm where it's coming from before taking any action, if any action is even necessary, and they have flashing lights to help them stand out more for that very purpose. The siren just gives you a bit more time to react to an unusual situation.

How do the deaf deal with them? Are they more attuned to spotting the flashing lights? Do they take visual cues off other drivers?

I've never seen an emergency vehicle plow through traffic as though they expect people to move. Yes it's a legal requirement that traffic must leave a clear path for them, but I've only ever seen them drive as fast as the conditions safely permit. eg. they run red lights, but not before slowing and confirming visually that's it clear first.
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Old 04-29-08, 07:42 PM   #12
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Granted, but a) I've never had a problem hearing a siren over my headphones - those buggers are LOUD, and b) it's only ever a preliminary warning - you should always visually confirm where it's coming from before taking any action, if any action is even necessary, and they have flashing lights to help them stand out more for that very purpose. The siren just gives you a bit more time to react to an unusual situation.

How do the deaf deal with them? Are they more attuned to spotting the flashing lights? Do they take visual cues off other drivers?

I've never seen an emergency vehicle plow through traffic as though they expect people to move. Yes it's a legal requirement that traffic must leave a clear path for them, but I've only ever seen them drive as fast as the conditions safely permit. eg. they run red lights, but not before slowing and confirming visually that's it clear first.
Nothing to disagree with here. I was responding to your statement only noting an exception to it. I was not saying anything more than what I said which remains true - your response appears to be about something I did not say, but perhaps wrongly thought I implied.

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Old 04-29-08, 08:07 PM   #13
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Hearing is a really lousy way to get information about things that you can't see. It is a crude indicator at best, and no substitute for looking.
Gotta disagree with you there. I like to keep my eyes forward most of the time, so I use my ears all the time as an indication of what's going on behind me. I don't use it instead of looking, but it makes a good complement.

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When approaching anyone from behind, be it pedestrian, motor vehicle or bicyclist, you should not expect them to hear you, nor take any action whatsoever based on your presence
I prefer bidirectional communication because it's so much more effective. For instance, I yell really loud, I see their heads turn or they wave, then I know they hear me.

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other than to hold their line, or if they are going to divert from it, to look behind first and wait if someone is passing. The fact that many people don't has nothing to do with whether or not they can hear you, but purely that they are not using their brains and the eyes connected to them.
Depends how close the pass is. If it's within a couple of feet, I'd definitely expect to communicate witht the person you're passing/ Expecting pedestrians to hold a line to +/- 6 inches probably isn't a good idea. Most people aren't trained for that.

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I no more expect cyclists to sound their bell to warn pedestrians that they're passing, than I expect motorists to sound their horn when passing cyclists.
Cars have lanes. If there weren't lanes, perhaps audible communication would be a good idea. Which in fact is practiced in areas that have less defined roads. I recall it was customary in Jamaica when going around blind curves.

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Apart from the resposibilities of the passing vehicle, if people would just HOLD THEIR LINE AND LOOK BEFORE MOVING FROM IT, like they're supposed to, passing conflicts would be vitually unheard of.
Cyclists seem to have rather unrealistic expectations of most pedestrians. Cyclists expect pedestrians to behave like vehicles when they're on MUPs and sidewalks and it's just not going to happen. If cyclists would just stop passing pedestrians with 6" clearance, passing conflicts would be similarly rare. Not to mention which, it's rude to scare the crap out of people like that. I say that as a runner and cyclist - I hate it when cyclists pass me with 6" clearance on a 9 foot wide MUP, especially when I'm hugging the right side.
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Old 04-29-08, 09:30 PM   #14
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Nothing to disagree with here. I was responding to your statement only noting an exception to it. I was not saying anything more than what I said which remains true - your response appears to be about something I did not say, but perhaps wrongly thought I implied.

Al
Fair enough. There's always going to be exceptions, and that was a valid one to bring up. Frankly, I hadn't considered them, so I'm glad you did.
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Old 04-29-08, 10:29 PM   #15
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Gotta disagree with you there. I like to keep my eyes forward most of the time, so I use my ears all the time as an indication of what's going on behind me. I don't use it instead of looking, but it makes a good complement.
Fair enough. Whatever works for you.

All I'm saying is that, in my experience, hearing is not as useful as some people here seem to think. I've ridden thousands of kilometres with headphones on, and never once felt that it effected my safety negatively. Some people obviously believe otherwise, but then, some people think just riding a bike in traffic is ridiculously dangerous. These people usually have little to no actual experience in the matter. I prefer to work these things out for myself.

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Cyclists seem to have rather unrealistic expectations of most pedestrians. Cyclists expect pedestrians to behave like vehicles when they're on MUPs and sidewalks and it's just not going to happen. If cyclists would just stop passing pedestrians with 6" clearance, passing conflicts would be similarly rare. Not to mention which, it's rude to scare the crap out of people like that. I say that as a runner and cyclist - I hate it when cyclists pass me with 6" clearance on a 9 foot wide MUP, especially when I'm hugging the right side.
Apparently you missed this bit - "Apart from the resposibilities of the passing vehicle...", one of which is passing with adequate clearance. It's old ground, and I didn't think it was necessary to cover it in detail yet again.

I don't have unrealistic expectations of pedestrians. When passing them, I have no expectations at all. I always make every possible effort to pass them safely, and only hope they don't suddenly step in front of me without looking. I've found that an audible warning just adds another element of unpredictability to their actions - it's just as likely that they'll jump into your path when they hear a bell or voice. It's also part of the reason why I avoid shared paths like the plague. I'm more than happy to leave them to the peds, and they can be as unpredictable as they like.
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Old 05-01-08, 08:35 AM   #16
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I am partially deaf and have been since birth. I have no hearing at all in one ear and about 70% left in the remaining ear. I do not have any sense of directional hearing (because I can only hear in a single ear, I cannot locate the source of sounds). In addition, in loud or crowded environments I simply cannot hear; there's a point, affected by area acoustics as well, where everything becomes a wall of white noise. Most people who know me never notice these things, as I am careful about positioning myself around people and not exposing myself to bad rooms (an issue).

However, I've been riding in traffic for twenty plus years and managed to survive. I pick up a lot of visual clues from the drivers around me and have built up a variety of defensive mechanisms that prevent bad clashes with motorists (I've found, for example, that trackstanding lights seems to completely defuse many motorists). I haven't been completely successful at avoiding motorist tensions, however, but I do okay. I've cycled in Boston (ugh), DC, Richmond, Chicago and Vancouver.

I like music, although I'm not entirely sure I hear it properly (due to hearing loss, I was excused from music classes in middle school, as were the rest of the students in my all-deaf homeroom-- I had the best hearing in the group). But you couldn't get me to wear earphones in traffic for any amount of $$$.
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Old 05-01-08, 09:17 AM   #17
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Thank you for responding Poguemahone.

Do you have an further insights to teaching a unilaterally deaf child -- I think that he is 5 at the moment -- how to ride? Any further insights regarding when he gets older?
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Old 05-01-08, 09:22 AM   #18
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I'm not sure. Are you attempting to simply teach him how to ride (balance and pedal etc) or teaching him how to interact with cars and other traffic?
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Old 05-01-08, 09:31 AM   #19
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I'm not sure. Are you attempting to simply teach him how to ride (balance and pedal etc) or teaching him how to interact with cars and other traffic?
At this point ... simply not crash (balance, pedal, and so on without training wheels) and be able to ride in a controlled environment with other children.

I am aware that when communicating with him that one generally needs to visually get his attention first and stay in an environment without a lot of background noise.
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Old 05-01-08, 01:10 PM   #20
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If I understand correctly, Unilateral loss is similar to mine (one ear), though there's a broad spectrum of hearing loss, and I'm at the tail end of the hearing spectrum (I can function w/o any hearing aid in the remaining ear), from what I can figure.

It's been so long, I can't recall much of how I learned to ride. My parents pretty much stuck me on a bike and let me fall over a lot, which I of course did. No training wheels. Aside from the noise issue, I imagine it's pretty much the same as teaching any other child to ride.

Road awareness is a different subject.
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Old 05-01-08, 01:15 PM   #21
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unilateral_hearing_loss

Man, I don't have a lot of those "symptoms". No dizziness, no irritability (some may argue) or headaches. Maybe because this is just the way I am... I may be better off because I've always been this way... the hearing related ones, I've got every one, though.
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Old 05-01-08, 01:21 PM   #22
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Road awareness is a different subject.
That is right ... unilateral loss = one side ... bilateral loss = both sides.

Curious about the road awareness. I realize that I might be asking you to write a book ... sorry ... but do you have any tips for the kid's future? Although from what you write, it sort of sounds like one would tell the child exactly what one would tell any child ... "look both ways before riding through the intersection", "get visual confirmation before changing lanes", and so on ... just with a little more emphasis since he will be unable to identify direction just from sound.

Are warning sounds troublesome for you? That is, I would think that you would hear a honking horn but without being able to identify the direction, it might not provide much information.
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Old 05-01-08, 01:46 PM   #23
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That is right ... unilateral loss = one side ... bilateral loss = both sides.

Curious about the road awareness. I realize that I might be asking you to write a book ... sorry ... but do you have any tips for the kid's future? Although from what you write, it sort of sounds like one would tell the child exactly what one would tell any child ... "look both ways before riding through the intersection", "get visual confirmation before changing lanes", and so on ... just with a little more emphasis since he will be unable to identify direction just from sound.

Are warning sounds troublesome for you? That is, I would think that you would hear a honking horn but without being able to identify the direction, it might not provide much information.
I think a lot of this is not bike specific. For example, when I hear a siren, the first thing I do is try to visually ascertain the location. If I can't and it sounds close, I'm off the bike and on the sidewalk fast.

Following traffic laws is a good idea, because it gives you time to make a complete visual check. Really. Much more so than hearing cyclists, I think this is important to safety, although since I've never heard properly, I have no idea.

When a car is alongside me, I watch the front tire for clues as to turning direction at corners.

Horns are a different subject than emergency vehicles. They are used by drivers for so many purposes, from a hello toot, to an I'm going to pass and want you to know I'm here toot to a you should get that stupid bike off the road blast. Most of the ones I get are from drivers behind me, and if I'm in a legal lane position at a stop (most common) I hold the lane.

The kid will probably be fine. To be honest, the worst part of the loss seems to be on the social end of things; bike riding is easy. A lot of social situations (parties, etc.) are a disaster...

I've gotta run; I'll check back in this weekend.

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