Don’t take your eyes off the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. For example, consider the amount of work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to connect with other people in your vehicle, call your attention to important information appearing on your dashboard, and help you keep track of other vehicles.
So when you experience hearing impairment, the way you drive can vary. That’s not to say your driving will become excessively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are greater liabilities in terms of safety. Nevertheless, some special precautions need to be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing loss might be affecting your situational awareness.
How your driving may be impacted by hearing loss
In general, driving is a vision-centric activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even if you have complete hearing loss, your driving may 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 often be heard before they can be seen.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can let you know. For instance, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often use their horn. For example, if you begin to drift into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your error before dangerous things take place.
- Your vehicle will often make audible sounds and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
- Even though most vehicles are engineered to reduce road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. For instance, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
All of these audio cues can help develop your overall situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you may miss more and more of these cues. But there are steps 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 fine! Here are a few ways you can make sure to stay safe when out on the road:
- Put away your phone: Even if your hearing is strong, 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 away your phone and it could save your life.
- Don’t ignore your instrument panel: Typically, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. So regularly glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- 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 keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- 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 overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind in your ears. So put up your window, turn down the volume, and keep the talking to a minimum while driving.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And there are a few ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- 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 keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s in working order.
- Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: If you don’t wear it, it can’t help! So be sure you’re using your hearing aids every time you get behind the wheel. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming sounds.
- 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 configuration of your vehicle (where, normally, your passenger is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
Lots of people with hearing loss keep driving and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.