Keep your eyes on the road. While this may be sound advice, what about your other senses? As an example, think about the amount of work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other individuals in your vehicle, call your attention to important information coming up on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So when you’re coping with hearing impairment, how you drive can change. That doesn’t automatically mean you will need to quit driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are bigger liabilities when it comes to safety. Nevertheless, some specific precautions need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but developing good driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How hearing loss may be impacting your driving
Vision is the primary sense utilized when driving. Even if you have complete hearing loss, your driving may change but you will still probably be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing a great deal while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- Even though most vehicles are engineered to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- 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.
- Other motorists will commonly use their horns to make you aware of their presence. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for instance, or you begin to drift into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes a problem.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is trying 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.
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be developing stronger situational awareness. You may begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss progresses. But there are steps you can take to ensure you stay as safe as possible while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
It’s fine if you want to continue driving even after you have hearing loss! Here are some ways you can be certain to remain safe while driving:
- Keep your phone out of reach: Well, this is wise advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. 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 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 on, or you don’t have a check engine light on.
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: Hearing loss is going to make it difficult for your ears to differentiate noises. When the wind is howling and your passengers are speaking, it may become easy for your ears to get overstimulated, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to lower the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
- 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 generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where wearing a hearing aid can really come in handy. And there are several ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real advantage 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 perhaps even dangerous. So be sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Use your hearing aid each time you drive: It’s not going to help you if you don’t use it! So every time you drive, make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming sounds.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you intend to do a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. The size of the inside of your vehicle and the fact that your passengers will be speaking to you from the side or rear will be the variables we will use to optimize this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
Lots of individuals with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Establishing safer driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes remain safely on the road.