Why mountain bikes and hearing aids are practically the same thing

Martin Jurek, Campbell River Hearing Clinic

Two years ago I received a wake-up call. I was feeling lethargic, I was consumed by stress and the buckle of my favourite belt was stretching menacingly at the last hole. Though my doctor told me there was nothing wrong per se, it was obvious where I was heading if I didn’t start getting some regular exercise.

At around the same time, a fellow named Jeremy was helping us build our new website for Campbell River Hearing Clinic. As I got to know him, he told me all about his newfound passion for mountain biking, which got me thinking that, hey, I used to like biking too, didn’t I?

Sensing the perfect opportunity for some fun exercise, I procured an invite to Jeremy’s Monday night ride – he even offered to lend me a pair of his fancy mountain bike shoes. I was ready to shred some trails!

My enthusiasm quickly waned when I showed up at the Trask Road parking lot to discover a dozen fully geared riders with hydration packs, body armour and full-suspension bikes that were to my 15-year-old mountain bike what a Hummer is to Ford’s original Model T.

James and his wife Chenoa, the owners of Swicked Cycles and the leaders of this weekly ride, asked me (with a straight face) if I’d be joining the fast group or the “fun” (read: slow) group. Despite my unfounded confidence, I opted for the fun one so as not to appear arrogant.

Twenty minutes later I was grinding alone up a rooty, forested singletrack trail, the rest of the “fun” group having disappeared well ahead of me, apparently having considerably more fun than I. They were, however, considerate enough to wait for me at each trail intersection, much to the relief of my thundering heart.

What the..?!

If you’re reading this in eager anticipation of the tie-in with hearing aids, you’re not alone. Hearing aids are, after all, one of the most exciting topics one could imagine reading about. Don’t worry, I’ll get there soon . . .

Throughout the ride I was bounced by rocks, tossed by roots and I even took a dramatic somersault over the handlebars (thankfully I was so far behind the pack that no one noticed). And yet . . . I was hooked! I ached for days, but I couldn’t wait to do it again. It wasn’t just the riding, it was also the camaraderie with a group of kindred spirits who encouraged me to never stop trying and who didn’t mind waiting for me to catch up.

Not long after that first ride, James at Swicked Cycles hooked me up with a new bike and a bunch of fancy gear. I now ride every week. I no longer have to think about every rock or root, I simply scan the trail ahead and my brain automatically knows what to do. I’m fitter, stronger and have much quicker reflexes. I’ve gone down three belt holes, my blood pressure couldn’t be better and I feel more satisfied and relaxed in every area of my life. I’m proud to say that I can even keep up with the fast group. Well, almost.

And here it is . . .

What did it take for me to become a decent mountain biker? Motivation for one; I needed that wake-up call from my doctor to convince me to take action to improve my life. I needed to remember how much I used to enjoy biking, and how much better I used to feel in all kinds of ways. I also needed the motivation from fellow riders, who encouraged me to “suck it up” no matter how steep the hill or gnarly the trail.

I also needed the right equipment and someone to help me make the most of it. James at Swicked helped me pick the right bike for my size and riding style, and he’s been there for me whenever I need adjustments, repairs or expert advice. If something doesn't feel 100% right with my bike, I take it to James and know that it will be taken care of.

And that’s how mountain bikes are just like hearing aids. Just as I needed the motivation to take up biking, you need the proper motivation to do something about the fact that your hearing may not be as sharp as it once was. You need the encouragement of loved ones, and you need to remember how much more enjoyable social gatherings were, and how much happier and more relaxed you used to feel.

This part is key

Because hearing loss creeps up so slowly, sometimes it’s difficult to notice it on your own – you need to take cues from those around you and think about the way difficult listening situations – like noisy restaurants – make you feel. The extra energy needed to follow a conversation with reduced hearing sensitivity can quickly leave you tired, irritable and utterly averse to social outings. Don’t let hearing loss turn you into a grouch!

Finally, just as I need James to help me get the best of my bike, I will help you choose the right equipment, fine-tune it to your precise specifications and always be there to provide tweaks or adjustments.

Just as I gradually became a better mountain biker, so will you grow accustomed to your improved hearing, until one day you’ll realize that you no longer have to concentrate on listening; your brain will filter out distractions automatically and you will simply understand – clearly and effortlessly.

If this article is your wake-up call, Jana and I will be happy to provide you with a complimentary hearing assessment. If not, we’re here for you if and when you decide to take the step toward better hearing and a better life.

Happy hearing!