Keep your eyes on the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. For example, consider the amount of work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other people in your vehicle, alert you to important info appearing on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So when you experience hearing loss, the way you drive can vary. That’s not to say your driving will come to be excessively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are bigger liabilities when it comes to safety. Nevertheless, some special precautions need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can impact your situational awareness but developing safe driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How your driving may be effected 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 complete hearing loss probably won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely may change how you drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. Some prevalent examples include:
- 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 around you. You will usually be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
- 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 alert you before it becomes an issue.
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. For instance, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
All of these audio cues can help build your overall situational awareness. As your hearing loss progresses, you may miss more and more of these cues. But you can practice some positive measures to keep your driving as safe as possible.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s okay! Here are a few ways you can make sure to stay safe while driving:
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: Hearing loss is going to make it hard for your ears to separate noises. When the wind is howling and your passengers are talking, it could become easy for your ears to get overstimulated, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to decrease the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
- Keep your phone out of reach: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. Phones are among the highest 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 your phone away and it could save your life.
- Keep an eye on your dash lights.: Normally, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So periodically 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 make sure you aren’t neglecting 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 be helpful. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. The size of the interior of your vehicle and the fact that your passengers will be talking to you from the side or rear will be the variables we will use to optimize this “car setting” for smoother safer driving.
- Use your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So be sure you’re using your hearing aids each time you drive. This will also help your brain acclimate to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to die right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can distract you and may even bring about a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s working properly.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, especially with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.