Skydiving With Hearing Aids… Hear Me Roar

Skydiving With Hearing Aids... Hear Me Roar

Laura Muller, who has 50% hearing loss, took up skydiving as a hobby. She is now a national gold medallist who has done naked skydives and viral skydive videos to test a new bra.

For Laura Muller, there is no feeling to rival the moment she throws herself out of a plane at 15,000ft. Her dedication has helped her grow from an excited beginner to a national competition gold medal winner in five years.

That’s Laura Muller, second on the left, winning ALL THE THINGS

The next two years will see her compete in further British Skydiving National Championships before the ‘ultimate’ goal, the 2016 World Championships. “I have two major commitments in my life – my work and my team, Bodyflight Isis,” says the 24-year-old, who is a Hearing Aid Dispenser at Hidden Hearing’s Chesterfield centre. “They are very different but take up all my focus. Being in such a high-level team, wanting to get a medal at a World Championships, means you have to change your whole lifestyle. You have to have an eating plan, a training plan for fitness, and a training plan for your team, as well. You have to be fit and you have to be committed to getting that medal.”

Born with 50% hearing loss, Laura’s condition wasn’t fully diagnosed until she was 16 years old, making for a challenging childhood.

“I have a severe hearing loss in both ears, meaning I can hear very little without my hearing aids,” she explains. “As far as I’m aware, the loss was since birth, as I was deprived of oxygen when my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 16 though, as newborn screenings weren’t compulsory then.

“I was taken to a lot of doctors throughout my childhood but they all said there was nothing wrong and that I had ‘selective’ hearing. At 16 I was nearly run over by a car, which is when my Mum insisted they look again. I got my first hearing aids from the hospital when I was 16.”

Those first hearing aids were limited. Laura wore them permanently while doing a uni degree in order to hear what her lecturers were saying in classes, but in other environments, typically restaurants or other loud, enclosed, public places, the background noise was way too much. She relied on her close friends speaking directly to her, and reverted to lip-reading. Chatting on the phone was out of the question.

Laura first discovered skydiving when she joined the freefall society in 2007. “It was the one thing my Mum told me not to do!” she recalls. “She knew I always wanted to do a skydive but I kept the jumping part from her until after I’d done it, or she’d have worried.”

Not sure which one is Laura TBH but that’s four very courageous women right there…

When Laura thinks about her first jump, her main memory was of finding it absolutely awful. She’d began with a RAPS course which basically means you’re started off on a static line at 4,000 ft and your parachute is opened for you straight away. “It was horrible,” says Laura. “I was so scared. I did nine of those jumps and failed each one so I decided to go onto the AFF course, which takes you directly to 15,000ft to freefall. The first jump I did with that was in Spain and it was amazing, I loved every second of it.” If you yourself are thinking of taking up skydiving, consider not just the height of the fall but also the way the course teaches you to do it. Different styles work for different people!

Even when Laura switched to a course she loved, the joy of exploring her new found passion was tempered by the restrictions of her hearing aids. “They were a nightmare,” she says. “Because they were so big they didn’t really fit under my helmet and if they did, they whistled and screamed at me. For the most part I had to take them out, which wasn’t ideal as I needed to hear what people were saying to me in the plane and on the ground.”

Those over-sized hearing aids seriously threatened her skydiving participation. “If I’d continued with my original hearing aids then I wouldn’t have been able to progress without hearing properly. More than likely I would have stopped. When I got some private hearing aids I heard things I had never heard before. I have no issue with them at all when I’m jumping. I definitely wouldn’t have got to where I am now.”

Where Laura is now is taking part as a major player in her sport. Skydiving has brought Laura freedom and a second career – as well as competing at international level, she is also a Formation Skydiving Coach, teaching people of all levels of ability. She’s also had a fair bit of fame come her way. Her skydiving exploits have been well documented in recent years. In 2012, a video of her leaping from a plane to test the strength of a new bra went viral and made the national press:

Her most daring jump, though, was a naked skydive in Spain, in 2009. Laura’s thoughts on that? “Particularly horrific!”.

At Bodyflight, Laura is part of a 4-way skydiving team; 4-way formation skydiving is technically and physically demanding. Each competing team has four skydivers, and the quartet perform formations, with an aerial cameraman accompanying them on every dive to record the jump so that the judges can provide scores.

At national and international level, each competition consists of 10 jumps, with a sequence of five or six predetermined formations performed on every dive – the judges select the formations, from a set pool of 38 – at the start of the competition. On each dive, the team members have 35 seconds to complete the set sequence of formations as much as possible. A point is scored for every correct formation completed within the allotted time.

“Our ultimate goal is to qualify for the World Championships in 2016 – but it’s also to get a medal there,” says Laura.

Whatever the future holds for Laura and the Bodyflight team, her achievements in the sport should serve as inspiration for anyone suffering from hearing loss. Nothing is impossible. “I’d recommend anyone who thinks they may have a problem with their hearing to go and get it looked at,” she says. “Life is too short to miss a moment, let alone years of conversations and jokes with family and friends.”