Don’t take your eyes off the road. Of course, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much 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 info coming up on your dashboard, and help you keep track of other vehicles.
So when you experience hearing loss, how you drive can vary. That doesn’t inevitably mean you will need to stop driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much greater liabilities. Nevertheless, some special precautions need to be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but formulating safe driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How your driving may be effected by hearing loss
Generally, driving is a vision-centric task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even full-blown hearing loss probably won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely could change how you drive. After all, you use your hearing a great deal while you’re driving. Here are some prevalent examples:
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can let you know. If your engine is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- If another motorist needs to make you aware of their presence, they will usually use their horn. For example, if you start drifting into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your mistake before dangerous things happen.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles around you. For example, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
All of these audio cues can help develop your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss progresses, you might be missing more and more of these cues. But there are measures you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as possible while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
It’s fine if you want to keep driving even after you have hearing loss! Here are some ways you can make sure to stay safe while driving:
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss is going to make it difficult for your ears to differentiate sounds. It will 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 blowing in your ears. So roll up your window, turn down the music, and keep conversations 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 make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Keep your phone stowed: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still good advice. One of the leading reasons for distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t ignore your instrument panel: Typically, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and make sure your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or your check engine light isn’t on.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
If you are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those scenarios where having a hearing aid can really come in handy. And there are several ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Have us program a driving setting for you: 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 configuration of your vehicle (where, normally, your conversation partner is beside and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more pleasant.
- Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: It won’t help you if you don’t wear it! So make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids each time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming sounds.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to die right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can distract you and could even lead to a dangerous situation. So make certain everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, particularly with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.