Don’t take your eyes off the road. Of course, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. Your ears, for example, are doing tons of work when you’re driving, helping you monitor other vehicles, alerting you to information on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other individuals in your vehicle.
So the way you drive can change if you’re going through hearing impairment. That doesn’t inevitably mean you will need to quit driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much bigger liabilities. That being said, those with decreased hearing need to take some specific precautions to remain as safe as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing impairment may be affecting your situational awareness.
How your driving might be impacted by hearing loss
In general, 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 likely be able to drive. While driving you do use your hearing a lot, after all. Some prevalent examples include:
- Other motorists will commonly honk their horns to make you aware of their presence. If you fail to see the light turn to green, for example, or you start to wander into the other lane, a horn can alert you before it becomes an issue.
- Your vehicle will often make audible sounds and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles near you. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. For instance, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be building stronger situational awareness. You may start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss progresses. But there are steps you can take to ensure you stay as safe as you can while driving.
Developing new safe driving habits
It’s no problem if you want to continue driving even after you have hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- Put away your phone: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still good advice. Today, one of the leading reasons for distraction is a cellphone. And that goes double when you try to use them when you have hearing loss. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t disregard your instrument panel: Normally, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So regularly glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss will make it difficult for your ears to separate noises. When the wind is blowing and your passengers are speaking, it might become easy for your ears to grow overstimulated, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum when driving.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where wearing a hearing aid can really help. And there are several ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Wear your hearing aid every 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 sounds your hearing aid sends into your ears.
- 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 calibrated for the interior space and configuration of your vehicle (where, usually, your passenger is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more enjoyable.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right when you’re driving to the store. That can be distracting and possibly even dangerous. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s in working order.
Lots of individuals with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.