Sports and All Sorts

June 23rd, 2011 by | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

Dacy Zacharias, a mother of two beautiful girls with bilateral cochlear implants and Cochlear™ Awareness Network Manager for Canada, not only shares her journey of raising her daughters with hearing loss, but also their experiences in sports, in particular gymnastics.  She provides some great tips on overcoming some challenges in playing certain sports as cochlear implant recipients such as finding the right helmet that will fit with the sound processors.

Dacy with her husband and her daughters

I grew up as a competitive gymnast so I always had a dream of having my kids follow in my footsteps. My husband Tim was a professional motocross racer so his love of extreme sports and speed would also influence our kids and their extracurricular activities. When our first daughter Callie was born, she failed the Newborn Hearing Screening test at the hospital as did her baby sister just over one year later. And so began our journey into the world of CI’s. Callie and Lexie were implanted at 12 months old on their right ear with an Nucleus 24 device at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Canada. Originally wearing the bodyworn sound processor in a little backpack, they began to develop their listening and speech in a mainstream preschool classroom. Then at ages 5 and 4 the girls both received a Freedom implant in their second (left) ear – their language development, ease of communication, and school life was dramatically changed with bilateral implants!

A couple years ago, both girls tried out for a competitive gymnastics team. They made the cut and now travel and compete on a team with 35 other girls!  At gymnastics, the girls hair is pulled back over top of the magnet to keep it in place. Once in a while, we will turn the magnet just a touch tighter to help it stay in place and then make sure we remember to back it off when we are finished. They sometimes use double sided stick tape on the processor, or MicLocks (small rubber tubing), or a headband to keep it on their ear.

Life in our house is not always girlie. Tim also taught the girls how to ride dirtbikes and Lexie especially loves to race.  Full gear is a must and they wear an appropriate motocross helmet which we have not modified.  Sometimes they will put a thin bandana on first to help keep the coil/magnet in place. Most of the time we put the coil under their hair and then pull it back in a tight ponytail to keep the processor and coil from falling off.

When we are out at the pool or on a boat at the lake, we put a small barrette or bobby pins over the cable/coil to secure it to their hair.  Sometimes we tie a piece of stretchy clear jeweller string to the processor and then safety pin the other end to the tag of their shirt or life jacket so that it doesn’t get lost in the water!  Headbands work great too, or a bandana and they look pretty cool out in the sun!  The girls also wear a water helmet for waterskiing or wakeboarding. It has these really great ear flaps that come down to protect from a fall on the water and they find it very comfortable.  Thankfully they don’t need a helmet for snorkelling or scuba diving!

Bicycles, skateboards and RipSticks are a pretty common sight when we are hanging out at home. We found mountain bike helmets that expand so they don’t knock the coils off when they put it on. Then once in place, they just tighten up the back and are good to go. We spent a lot of time in the store trying on different helmets, but it was worth it to find one that was comfortable and we did not have to modify it. Fox made a pretty cool helmet that comes up around the ears higher so the processors don’t get knocked off as easily.  We try switching things up sometimes – Lexie has been wearing her wakeboard helmet outside lately when she is bike riding and Rip Sticking!

Winter brings skating, hockey and snowboarding.  Reebok made an expandable gel padded hockey helmet that one of our boy CI friends uses, and Solomon had a really nice helmet with a soft warm padding inside which the girls both love to wear!

One thing I have found with all the different sports gear – The kids don’t always love the helmet the first couple times they wear it with their processors on. It does take practice to get everyone all geared up but stick with it -  eventually they get used to it!  We are pretty tough on our kids about this – they know they have to give it a good try (at least 3 times) before we will get something different.  If they don’t wear the gear, they aren’t allowed to play the sport. Period. End of discussion.

It is not always easy and we know there are a lot of challenges that our CI kiddos will face every day.  However, we continue to be amazed and thankful for our girls and the gift we have received with their CI’s.   Cochlear implants have enabled them to hear their coaches instructions, and to hear the music which they perform to!  Adding sports into your child’s routine can bring more than just physical benefits to their lives.  Along with strength and flexibility, they also learn concentration, focus, social and listening skills too. And so, we are cheering for you and your ci kiddos too – Just do it!



February 23, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Very Inspiring! My daughter is deaf and has Nucleus 5 bilateral implants. She is making a lot of headway but I was curious about starting her in a “sport” and din’t know where to start. I am so happy to hear that your girls are thriving with their implants.


June 17, 2012 at 7:31 pm

just got our son inplanted with one nice to here that he can play in sport thank you