Don’t take your eyes off the road. Of course, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. Your ears, for example, are doing a ton of work when 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 people in your vehicle.
So when you experience hearing loss, the way you drive can change. That doesn’t inevitably mean you will need to quit driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. That said, those with decreased hearing should take some specific safeguards to stay as safe as possible.
Hearing loss can impact your situational awareness but formulating good driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How your driving might be impacted by hearing loss
Generally, driving is a vision-centered activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s 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 great deal, after all. Here are some typical examples:
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often beep their horn. For instance, if you begin to drift into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your error before dangerous things happen.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car is damaged in some way. If your engine is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for instance.
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is attempting 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 near you. For example, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
All of these audio cues can help build your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss gets worse, you might be missing more and more of these cues. But there are steps you can take to ensure you stay as safe as you can while driving.
Practicing 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: 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 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 highest causes of distraction on the road these days. And that goes double when you attempt 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 ignore your instrument panel: Typically, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So regularly glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: It will be difficult for your ears to isolate sounds when you’re going through hearing loss. It could 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 blowing in your ears. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum while driving.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those instances where wearing a hearing aid can really come in handy. And there are a few ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Each time you drive, use your hearing aid: It won’t help you if you don’t use it! So be sure you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you get behind the wheel. This will also help your brain acclimate to the sounds your hearing aid sends your way.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to die. That can distract you and could even bring about a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s in working order.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: 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, usually, your passenger is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, especially with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Developing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes remain safely on the road.