Keep your eyes on the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. Your ears, for instance, are doing a ton of work while you’re driving, helping you monitor other vehicles, calling your attention to information on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other passengers in your vehicle.
So when you experience hearing impairment, the way you drive can vary. That’s not to say your driving will come to be prohibitively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much bigger liabilities. Nevertheless, some specific safeguards should be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing impairment may be affecting your situational awareness.
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 full-blown hearing loss probably won’t keep you from driving, but it very likely might change how you drive. While driving you do utilize your hearing a great deal, after all. Some prevalent examples include:
- Even though many vehicles are engineered 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 instance.
- Other drivers will commonly honk their horns to alert you to their presence. For example, if you start drifting into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your error before bad things take place.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
By using all of these audio cues, you will be building stronger situational awareness. You may begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. 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:
- Put away your phone: Well, this is wise advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. One of the leading reasons for distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Don’t ignore your instrument panel: Normally, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. So you’ll want to make sure you glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or your check engine light isn’t on.
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: Hearing loss will make it difficult for your ears to separate noises. When the wind is blowing and your passenger is speaking, it could become easy for your ears to get overstimulated, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to lower the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and put up your windows.
- Check your mirrors more often: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
If you are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those scenarios where wearing a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right when you’re driving to the store. That can be distracting and maybe even dangerous. So be sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you do a lot of driving. The size of the inside of your vehicle and the fact that your passengers will be talking to you from the side or rear will be the variables we will use to optimize this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
- Use your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t use it, it won’t help! So each time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming signals.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, especially with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Developing safer driving habits can help guarantee that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes remain safely on the road.