Keep your eyes on the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. Your ears, for instance, are doing tons 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 people in your vehicle.
So the way you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing loss. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. Still, some special safeguards need to be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but developing good driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How hearing loss might be affecting your driving
Vision is the principal sense used when driving. Even full-blown hearing loss probably won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely might change how you drive. While driving you do use your hearing a lot, after all. Here are some prevalent examples:
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- Even though many vehicles are designed to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. You will usually be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For example, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Your vehicle will often make audible sounds and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- Other motorists will commonly honk 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 alert you before it becomes an issue.
All of these audio cues can help develop your overall situational awareness. You could start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss progresses. But you can take some positive measures to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Practicing new safe driving habits
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s fine! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- Check your mirrors more often: 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.
- Keep your phone out of reach: 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 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 disregard your instrument panel: Typically, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and make sure your turn signals aren’t still on, or your check engine light isn’t on.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss will make it difficult for your ears to separate noises. It could be easy for your ears to become overwhelmed and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind blowing in your ears. So put up your window, turn down the volume, and keep conversations to a minimum when driving.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those scenarios where having a hearing aid can really help. And there are a few ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re driving:
- Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you drive. This will also help your brain acclimate to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
- 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 setup of your vehicle (where, normally, 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: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to quit. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s working properly.
Plenty 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 stay focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.