Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this may be sound advice, how about your other senses? For example, think about the amount of work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other people in your vehicle, call your attention to important info appearing on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So the way you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will come to be excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much bigger liabilities. Nevertheless, some special safeguards need to be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing impairment may be influencing your situational awareness.
How hearing loss may be impacting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centered task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even total hearing loss most likely won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely could change how you drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- Other drivers will commonly honk their horns to make you aware of their presence. If you fail to see the light turn to green, for example, or you start to drift into the other lane, a horn can alert you before it becomes a problem.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Even though most vehicles are designed to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. If your motor is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
All of these audio cues can help build your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss gets worse, you might be missing more and more of these cues. But there are steps you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as you can while driving.
Developing new safe driving habits
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s fine! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- Keep your phone out of reach: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still smart advice. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that goes double when you attempt to use them with hearing loss. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Don’t ignore your dash lights: Normally, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. So periodically glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss is going to make it difficult for your ears to separate sounds. It could be easy for your ears to become overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind blowing in your ears. So roll up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum when driving.
- 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 keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
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 there are several ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right when you’re driving to the store. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So make sure everything is in good working order 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. This will also help your brain acclimate to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
- Have us program a driving setting for you: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you drive a lot. The size of the interior of your vehicle and the fact that your passengers will be talking to you from the side or rear will be the factors we will use to optimize this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
Plenty of individuals with hearing loss keep driving and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Developing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes stay safely on the road.