Don’t take your eyes off the road. Of course, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. Your ears, for instance, are doing a lot of work when you’re driving, helping you monitor other vehicles, alerting you to information on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other passengers in your vehicle.
So the way you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will come to be prohibitively dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much greater liabilities. Nevertheless, some specific safeguards need to be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but acquiring good driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How your driving might be effected by hearing loss
Vision is the main sense utilized when driving. Even complete hearing loss probably won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely might change how you drive. While driving you do use your hearing a lot, after all. Here are some typical examples:
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- If another motorist needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often use their horn. If you fail to see the light turn to green, for example, or you begin to drift into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes an issue.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is attempting to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Even though most vehicles are engineered to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car is damaged in some way. For example, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
All of these audio cues can help build your total situational awareness. You could start 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.
Practicing new safe driving habits
It’s fine if you want to keep driving even after you have hearing loss! Here are a few ways you can be certain to remain safe while driving:
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be difficult for your ears to distinguish noises when you have hearing loss. It could be easy for your ears to get overwhelmed and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly speaking and music playing and wind in your ears. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum when driving.
- Keep your phone stowed: Well, this is good advice whether you have hearing loss or not. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road these days. And with hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. You will simply be safer when you put away your phone and it could save your life.
- Don’t disregard your instrument panel: Typically, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. So you’ll want to make sure you glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or you don’t have a check engine light 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 generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And there are several ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re driving:
- Each time you drive, use your hearing aid: It’s not going to help you if you don’t use it! So make certain you’re using your hearing aids every time you get behind the wheel. This will also help your brain get used to the signals your hearing aid sends into your ears.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid charged and clean: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to die. That can distract you and could even create a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s working properly.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you anticipate doing a lot of driving, you can ask us to give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. The size of the inside of your vehicle and the fact that your passengers will be speaking to you from the side or rear will be the factors we will use to fine tune this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, particularly with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.