Keep your eyes on the road. While this may be sound advice, what about your other senses? For example, consider the amount of work your ears are doing when you’re driving. You’re using your ears to connect with other individuals in your vehicle, call your attention to important information appearing on your dashboard, and help you keep track of other vehicles.
So the way you drive can change if you’re going through hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are bigger liabilities when it comes to safety. That said, those with diminished hearing need to take some specific safeguards to stay as safe as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but acquiring good driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How hearing loss may be affecting your driving
Vision is the primary sense used when driving. 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:
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
- Your vehicle will often make audible sounds and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- Even though most vehicles are designed 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.
- Other motorists will often honk their horns to make you aware of their presence. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for example, or you start to wander into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes an issue.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For example, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
All of these audio cues can help develop your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you may miss more and more of these cues. But you can take some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s fine! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- Check your mirrors more often: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Keep your phone out of reach: Well, this is good advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. Phones are among the highest causes of distraction on the road today. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t disregard your dash lights: Normally, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So periodically look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be challenging for your ears to isolate noises when you’re going through hearing loss. It could 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 roll up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum while driving.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really be helpful. 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: When you’re on your way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to quit. That can be distracting and possibly even dangerous. So make sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Use your hearing aid every time you drive: It’s not going to help you if you don’t use it! So every time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming signals.
- 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 setup of your vehicle (where, normally, your conversation partner is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more enjoyable.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, especially with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Establishing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes stay safely on the road.