Keep your eyes on the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. Your ears, for instance, are doing tons of work while you’re driving, helping you keep track of other vehicles, calling your attention to information on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other passengers in your vehicle.
So how you drive can change if you’re going through hearing loss. That doesn’t automatically mean you will need to quit driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are bigger liabilities in terms of safety. That being said, those with decreased hearing need to take some specific precautions to stay 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 hearing loss might be affecting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centered task (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. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Here are some prevalent examples:
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For instance, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will usually use their horn. For example, if you begin to drift into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your error before bad 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 designed to decrease 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 build your overall 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 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! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- Put your phone away: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still smart advice. Today, one of the leading causes of distraction is a cellphone. And when you have 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.
- Keep an eye on your dash lights.: Typically, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So regularly look down to see if any dash lights are 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 make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be hard for your ears to isolate noises when you’re going through hearing loss. It could be easy for your ears to become overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly speaking and music playing and wind in your ears. So when you’re driving, it’s a smart idea to lower the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where having a hearing aid can really help. And there are a few ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re driving:
- Wear your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t wear it, it won’t help! So make sure you’re using your hearing aids every time you get behind the wheel. This will also help your brain acclimate to the sounds your hearing aid sends into your ears.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid charged and clean: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to die. That can distract you and could even lead to a dangerous situation. So make sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Have us program a driving setting for you: If you intend to do a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be calibrated for the inside space and setup of your vehicle (where, usually, your passenger 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 easier and safer. Establishing safer driving habits can help guarantee that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes remain safely on the road.