Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this might be sound advice, what about your other senses? Your ears, for instance, are doing a ton of work when you’re driving, helping you track other vehicles, calling your attention to info on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other individuals in your vehicle.
So when you experience hearing loss, how you drive can vary. That doesn’t automatically mean you will have to quit driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much greater liabilities. Still, some special safeguards should be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing impairment might be influencing your situational awareness.
How your driving might be impacted by hearing loss
In general, driving is a vision-centric activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even if you have complete hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still probably be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is attempting to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
- If another motorist needs to make you aware of their presence, they will usually beep 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 alert you before it becomes a problem.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car is damaged in some way. If your motor is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- 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 normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
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 progresses. But you can practice some positive measures to keep your driving as safe as possible.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s okay! Here are some ways you can make sure to stay safe when out on the road:
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Put your phone away: Well, this is good advice whether you have hearing loss or not. Today, one of the leading causes of distraction is a cellphone. And that goes double when you attempt to use them when you have hearing loss. You will simply be safer when you put away your phone and it could save your life.
- Keep an eye on your dash lights.: Typically, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. So periodically look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: It will be challenging for your ears to distinguish sounds when you’re going through hearing loss. It could be easy for your ears to become overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly speaking and music playing and wind in your ears. So roll up your window, turn down the music, and keep conversations to a minimum when driving.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And there are a few ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Each time you drive, wear your hearing aid: It won’t help you if you don’t wear it! So each time you drive, make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain get used to the signals your hearing aid sends into your ears.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to die right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So be sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
- Have us program a driving setting for you: If you intend to do a lot of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be calibrated for the inside space and setup of your vehicle (where, normally, your passenger is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more pleasant.
Lots of individuals with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.