Keep your eyes on 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 keep track of other vehicles, alerting you to info on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other individuals in your vehicle.
So when you experience hearing loss, the way you drive can change. That doesn’t automatically mean you will have to stop driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are greater liabilities in terms of safety. That being said, those with decreased hearing need to take some specific safeguards to stay as safe as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing impairment might be affecting your situational awareness.
How your driving could be effected by hearing loss
Generally, driving is a vision-centric activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even total hearing loss most likely won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely may change how you drive. After all, you use your hearing a great deal while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car is damaged in some way. If your motor is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles near you. For example, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
- Other motorists will commonly use their horns to make you aware of their presence. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for example, or you begin to wander into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes an issue.
All of these audio cues can help build your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you may miss more and more of these cues. But you can take some positive measures to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Practicing new safe driving habits
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s fine! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: Hearing loss is going to make it difficult for your ears to differentiate noises. 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 blowing in your ears. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to lower the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
- Keep your phone stowed: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still smart advice. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road today. And that doubles when you try to use them with hearing loss. You will simply be safer when you put your phone away and it could save your life.
- Don’t ignore your instrument panel: Normally, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So you’ll want to make sure you glance down (when it’s safe) and make sure your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or your check engine light isn’t 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.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really be helpful. And there are a few ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re driving:
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to quit. That can distract you and could even bring about a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s in working order.
- Each time you drive, wear your hearing aid: It won’t help you if you don’t wear it! So make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids each time you get behind the wheel. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming sounds.
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be adjusted for the interior space and setup of your vehicle (where, normally, your conversation partner is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more pleasant.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, especially with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Developing safer driving habits can help ensure that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes remain safely on the road.