Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this may be sound advice, how about your other senses? Your ears, for instance, are doing a lot of work when you’re driving, helping you keep track of other vehicles, calling your attention to info on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other passengers in your vehicle.
So the way you drive can change if you’re going through hearing loss. That doesn’t inevitably mean you will need to stop driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. Nevertheless, some special safeguards need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can impact your situational awareness but formulating safe driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How your driving may be impacted by hearing loss
Generally, driving is a vision-centered activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even total hearing loss probably won’t keep you from driving, but it very likely might change how you drive. While driving you do use your hearing a lot, after all. Some typical examples include:
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. For example, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles near you. For example, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often use their horn. If you fail to see the light turn to green, for instance, or you start to wander into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes a problem.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
All of these audio cues can help build your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you might be missing more and more of these cues. But there are steps you can take to ensure you stay as safe as possible while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s fine! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: Hearing loss is going to make it hard for your ears to differentiate sounds. When the wind is blowing and your passenger is speaking, it might become easy for your ears to grow overwhelmed, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So when you’re driving, it’s a smart idea to decrease the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
- Keep your phone out of reach: 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 doubled. You will simply be safer when you put away your phone and it could save your life.
- Keep an eye on your instrument panel: Normally, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So regularly glance 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 be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you have hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where having a hearing aid can really come in handy. And there are a few ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you drive a lot. This setting will be adjusted for the inside space and configuration of your vehicle (where, usually, your passenger is beside and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more pleasant.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can distract you and could even bring about a dangerous situation. So make sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Each time you drive, wear your hearing aid: If you don’t use it, it won’t help! So every time you drive, make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain acclimate to the sounds your hearing aid sends into your ears.
Lots of people with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.