Don’t take your eyes off the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. Your ears, for example, are doing tons of work while you’re driving, helping you keep track of other vehicles, calling your attention to information on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other passengers in your vehicle.
So the way you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much greater liabilities. Nevertheless, some special safeguards need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but formulating safe driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How your driving may be impacted by hearing loss
Vision is the main sense used when driving. Even if you have complete hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still likely be able to drive. While driving you do utilize your hearing a lot, after all. Some typical examples include:
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can let you know. If your motor is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often beep their horn. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for instance, or you start to wander into the other lane, a horn can alert you before it becomes an issue.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles around you. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
All of these audio cues can help develop your total situational awareness. You could begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss progresses. But there are measures you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as possible while driving.
Developing new safe driving habits
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s okay! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Put your phone away: Well, this is wise advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. Today, one of the leading reasons for distraction is a cellphone. And that goes double when you try to use them when you have hearing loss. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Don’t ignore your dash lights: usually, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So periodically glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: It will be challenging for your ears to distinguish sounds when you have hearing loss. When the wind is blowing and your passenger is speaking, it may become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to decrease the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
Driving is one of those activities that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really be helpful. And there are a few ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re driving:
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you intend to do a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be calibrated for the interior space and setup of your vehicle (where, usually, your conversation partner is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
- Use your hearing aid each time you drive: It won’t help you if you don’t use it! So make certain you’re using your hearing aids each time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming signals.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So make sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
Plenty of people with hearing loss keep driving and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.