Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this might be sound advice, how about your other senses? Your ears, for example, are doing tons of work while you’re driving, helping you track other vehicles, alerting you to info on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other individuals in your vehicle.
So when you’re coping with hearing impairment, the way you drive can change. That’s not to say your driving will come to be prohibitively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. Still, some special safeguards should be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing impairment may be influencing your situational awareness.
How your driving could be effected by hearing loss
In general, driving is a vision-centered activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even full-blown hearing loss probably won’t keep 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. Some typical examples include:
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will usually beep their horn. For example, if you start drifting into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your mistake before bad things take place.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is attempting to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- Even though most vehicles are engineered to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car is damaged in some way. For instance, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be developing better situational awareness. You could start 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.
New safe driving habits to develop
It’s fine if you want to keep driving even after you have hearing loss! Here are some ways you can be certain to stay safe when out on the road:
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss will make it difficult for your ears to differentiate noises. When the wind is howling and your passenger is talking, it could 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 reduce the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and put up your windows.
- Put your phone away: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still smart advice. Today, one of the leading reasons for distraction is a cellphone. And that goes double when you try to use them when you have hearing loss. You will simply be safer when you put your phone away and it could save your life.
- Keep an eye on your dash lights.: Normally, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. 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 you don’t have a check engine light on.
- Check your mirrors more often: 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.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where wearing a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- Wear your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t use it, it won’t help! So every time you drive, make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain get used to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to die. That can be distracting and maybe even dangerous. 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 adjusted for the interior space and configuration of your vehicle (where, normally, your conversation partner is beside and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more pleasant.
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 remain focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.