Don’t take your eyes off the road. Of course, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. For example, think about how much 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 the way you drive can change if you’re going through hearing loss. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are larger liabilities when it comes to safety. Nevertheless, some specific precautions should 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 safe driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How your driving could be effected by hearing loss
Generally, driving is a vision-centered task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving may change but you will still probably be able to drive. While driving you do utilize your hearing a lot, after all. Some typical examples include:
- Other drivers will commonly use their horns to alert you to their presence. For instance, if you begin to drift into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your mistake before bad things take place.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car is damaged in some way. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- 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 your way.
All of these audio cues can help develop your overall situational awareness. As your hearing loss progresses, you may miss more and more of these cues. But you can take 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 keep driving, that’s fine! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: It will be hard for your ears to isolate noises when you have hearing loss. It will 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 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 put up your windows.
- Keep your phone stowed: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still smart advice. Phones are among the highest causes of distraction on the road today. And that goes double when you attempt to use them when you have hearing loss. 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 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 make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
Driving is one of those activities 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:
- 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 distract you and could even create a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s in working order.
- Have us dial in 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. 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 fine tune this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
- Each time you drive, wear your hearing aid: If you don’t wear it, it can’t help! So make certain you’re using your hearing aids each time you drive. This will also help your brain acclimate to the sounds your hearing aid sends your way.
Plenty of people with hearing loss keep driving and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Developing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes remain safely on the road.