Keep your eyes on the road. While this might be sound advice, what about your other senses? As an example, think about the amount of work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to connect with other individuals in your vehicle, alert you to important info coming up on your dashboard, and help you keep track of other vehicles.
So when you’re coping with hearing loss, how you drive can change. That’s not to say your driving will come to be prohibitively dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. That being said, those with declining hearing need to take some specific safeguards to remain as safe as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing impairment might be influencing your situational awareness.
How your driving might be impacted by hearing loss
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 complete hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still likely be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. Here are some prevalent examples:
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. For example, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles around you. You will usually be able to hear an oncoming truck, for instance.
- Other motorists will commonly honk their horns to alert you to their presence. If you fail to see the light turn to green, for example, or you begin to drift into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes a problem.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
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 advances. But you can take some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Practicing new safe driving habits
It’s no problem if you want to continue driving even after you have hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: It will be hard for your ears to isolate noises when you’re going through hearing loss. When the wind is howling and your passenger is speaking, it might become easy for your ears to grow overstimulated, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So when you’re driving, it’s a smart idea to decrease the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
- Keep your phone out of reach: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still smart advice. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road today. And with hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. You will simply be safer when you put your phone away and it could save your life.
- Don’t neglect your dash lights: Typically, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So regularly look 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 make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those situations 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 advantage when you’re driving:
- Have us program a driving setting for you: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you do a lot of driving. This setting will be calibrated for the interior space and configuration of your vehicle (where, usually, your conversation partner is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more pleasant.
- Each time you drive, use your hearing aid: It’s not going to help you if you don’t use it! So each time you drive, make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain acclimate to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid charged and clean: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right when you’re driving to the store. That can be distracting and maybe even dangerous. So make certain everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, particularly with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Developing safer driving habits can help ensure that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes remain safely on the road.