Keep your eyes on the road. While this might be sound advice, what about your other senses? As an example, think about the amount of work your ears are doing when you’re driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other people in your vehicle, call your attention to important info appearing on your dashboard, and help you track other vehicles.
So the way you drive can change if you’re going through hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. Still, some special safeguards should be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but acquiring safe driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How hearing loss may be impacting 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 most likely won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely could change the way you drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often use their horn. For example, if you start drifting into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your mistake before dangerous things take place.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can let you know. For instance, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles near you. For instance, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- 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 steps you can take to ensure you stay as safe as possible while driving.
Practicing new safe driving habits
It’s fine if you want to keep driving even after you have hearing loss! Here are some ways you can be certain to remain safe when out on the road:
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: 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.
- Keep your phone out of reach: Well, this is wise advice whether you have hearing loss or not. Phones are among the highest causes of distraction on the road today. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. You will simply be safer when you put your phone away and it could save your life.
- Keep an eye on your dash lights.: Typically, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and make sure your turn signals aren’t still on, or you don’t have a check engine light on.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss will make it hard for your ears to separate sounds. When the wind is blowing and your passengers are speaking, it might become easy for your ears to grow overwhelmed, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep conversations to a minimum while driving.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those instances where wearing a hearing aid can really come in handy. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Wear your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t use it, it won’t help! So each time you drive, make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain acclimate to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: 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 factors we will use to fine tune this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to die right when you’re driving to the store. That can distract you and may even create a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s in working order.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, 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 establish safe driving habits.