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Hearing aids should be removed before individuals with hearing impairments or deafness enter the pool area. In fact, they should probably be removed in the locker room and stored carefully in a locked locker.

The individual with a hearing impairment or deafness should wear ear plugs and water head bands to prevent water from entering the ear canal.

A visual emergency signal must be in place. In some pools, flicking on and off the lights is a possibility. In others, where lights are dimmed by window light another alternative must exist. Several emergency signs are:

  • Warning flags waved by lifeguard or teacher
  • A brightly colored ball with a drawn standard emergency symbol (skull and crossbones) thrown in front of the deaf student to get his attention

In an open water swimming area, the designated safe swimming area must be carefully delineated and marked by colorful buoys. The individual with a hearing impairment or deafness must always swim with a buddy; in fact, it is a best practice in aquatics for all individuals to always swim with a buddy.

In a pool, the deep water areas must be carefully identified.

The instructor will need to know and use basic survival signs in the water:

  • stop
  • watch me
  • swimpay attention
  • yes and no
  • come here
  • good work
  • again or more

Demonstrations, particularly by classmates, are effective in presenting information.

The individual who is deaf or has a hearing impairment should not dive to enter the pool area and certainly should not snorkel or scuba dive because of the risk of losing any functional hearing by increased pressure/potential damage to the ear drum.

The individual with a hearing impairment or deafness may experience difficulty with the maintenance of equilibrium. The individual with a hearing impairment or deafness must be given the opportunity to explore the aquatic environment, a variety of positions within that environment, and practice vital safety skills such as recovering to a stand from a float or glide.


Carol Huettig, Ph.D.
Texas Woman's University
Please reprint only with permission of the author

page last updated 1/2/2013 4:34 PM