Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this may be sound advice, what about your other senses? Your ears, for instance, are doing a ton of work while you’re driving, helping you monitor other vehicles, calling your attention to info on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other passengers in your vehicle.
So when you’re coping with hearing impairment, how you drive can change. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to stop driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are bigger liabilities when it comes to safety. That being said, those with diminished hearing need to take some special safeguards to remain as safe as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but developing safe driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How hearing loss could be impacting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centered activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even complete hearing loss most likely won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely could change how you drive. While driving you do use your hearing a lot, after all. Here are some prevalent examples:
- Your vehicle will often make audible sounds and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles around you. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for instance.
- Other motorists will often use their horns to alert you to their presence. If you fail to see the light turn to green, for instance, or you begin to wander into the other lane, a horn can alert you before it becomes an issue.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car is damaged in some way. If your motor is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be developing stronger situational awareness. You may start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But there are measures you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as you can while driving.
Developing new safe driving habits
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s okay! Here are some ways you can make sure to remain safe while driving:
- Keep your phone stowed: Well, this is wise advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road today. And with hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t disregard your instrument panel: Normally, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. So you’ll want to make sure you glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or your check engine light isn’t 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 generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss will make it hard for your ears to differentiate sounds. It could be easy for your ears to get overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly speaking and music playing and wind in your ears. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep conversations to a minimum while driving.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- Use your hearing aid every time you drive: It won’t help you if you don’t wear it! So each time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain get used to the sounds your hearing aid sends your way.
- 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 maybe even dangerous. So make certain everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you do a lot of driving. This setting will be calibrated for the inside space and setup of your vehicle (where, usually, your conversation partner is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more pleasant.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, 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 remain safely on the road.