Keep your eyes on the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. As an example, consider how much work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other individuals in your vehicle, alert you to important info coming up on your dashboard, and help you track other vehicles.
So the way you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing loss. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much bigger liabilities. Still, some specific precautions should be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing impairment may be affecting your situational awareness.
How hearing loss may be affecting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centered task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still likely be able to drive. While driving you do utilize your hearing a great deal, after all. Some prevalent examples include:
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will usually use their horn. For instance, if you start drifting into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your mistake before dangerous things take place.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. If your motor is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for instance.
- Even though most vehicles are engineered to reduce road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is trying to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be building stronger situational awareness. You may start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss progresses. But you can take some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Developing new safe driving habits
It’s no problem if you want to keep driving even after developing hearing loss! 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: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still good advice. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road these days. And with hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Keep an eye on your instrument panel: Normally, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So you’ll want to make sure you glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still on, or your check engine light isn’t on.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss is going to make it hard for your ears to differentiate noises. It will be easy for your ears to get overwhelmed 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 roll up your windows.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
Driving is one of those activities that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And there are several ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re driving:
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to die. That can distract you and may even lead to a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s in working order.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you intend to do a lot of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be adjusted for the interior space and setup of your vehicle (where, usually, your conversation partner 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 can’t help! So make certain you’re using your hearing aids every time you drive. This will also help your brain acclimate to the sounds your hearing aid sends into your ears.
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 stay focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.