Keep your eyes on the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. Your ears, for example, are doing a lot of work when you’re driving, helping you monitor other vehicles, alerting you to info on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other people in your vehicle.
So when you experience hearing impairment, the way you drive can change. That’s not to say your driving will become excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. That said, those with diminished hearing should take some special safeguards to remain as safe as possible.
Hearing loss can impact your situational awareness but developing good driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How hearing loss may be affecting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centered activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even total hearing loss probably won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely could change the way you drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- If another motorist 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 begin to drift into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes an issue.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. If your engine is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
- 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).
- Even though most vehicles are engineered to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. For instance, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be building better situational awareness. You may begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But you can take some positive measures to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Developing new safe driving habits
It’s fine if you want to continue driving even after you have hearing loss! Here are a few ways you can be certain to stay safe when out on the road:
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: 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.
- Put away your phone: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road today. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. You will simply be safer when you put away your phone and it could save your life.
- Keep an eye on your dash lights.: Typically, 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 on, or your check engine light isn’t on.
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be challenging for your ears to distinguish noises when you’re going through hearing loss. It will be easy for your ears to get overwhelmed and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind in your ears. So roll up your window, turn down the volume, and keep conversations to a minimum when driving.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where wearing a hearing aid can really come in handy. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- 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 need is for your battery to die. That can distract you and might even bring about a dangerous situation. So be sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a lot of driving, you can ask us to give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be calibrated for the inside space and configuration of your vehicle (where, usually, your passenger is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
- Wear your hearing aid every time you drive: If you don’t use it, it won’t help! So every time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming sounds.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, especially with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Developing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes remain safely on the road.