Keep your eyes on the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. As an example, think about the amount of work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other people in your vehicle, alert you to important information coming up on your dashboard, and help you track other vehicles.
So how you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing impairment. That doesn’t automatically mean you will have to stop driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. Still, some specific precautions need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but acquiring safe driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How hearing loss might be affecting your driving
Generally, driving is a vision-centric task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still probably be able to drive. While driving you do use your hearing a great deal, after all. Some typical examples include:
- Even though many vehicles are designed to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car is damaged in some way. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is attempting to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- If another motorist needs to make you aware of their presence, they will usually use their horn. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for instance, or you begin to wander into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes a problem.
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
All of these audio cues can help build your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you might be missing more and more of these cues. But there are measures you can take to ensure you stay as safe as you can while driving.
Developing new safe driving habits
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s okay! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be difficult for your ears to distinguish sounds when you have hearing loss. When the wind is blowing and your passenger is talking, it may become easy for your ears to grow overstimulated, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So when you’re driving, it’s a smart idea to decrease the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
- Put away your phone: Well, this is wise advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. Today, one of the leading reasons for distraction is a cellphone. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t ignore your dash lights: Typically, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So periodically glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Check your mirrors more often: You may not be able to hear an ambulance pull up behind you–even with all those sirens going. So be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
If you are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where wearing a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: If you don’t use it, it won’t help! So every time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming sounds.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to die. That can distract you and might even create a dangerous situation. So make sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you drive a lot. This setting will be adjusted for the inside space and configuration of your vehicle (where, usually, your passenger is beside and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more enjoyable.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, particularly with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.