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 a ton of work when you’re driving, helping you track other vehicles, calling your attention to information on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other passengers in your vehicle.
So the way you drive can change if you’re going through hearing impairment. That doesn’t automatically mean you will need to quit driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are bigger liabilities in terms of safety. Still, some specific safeguards need to be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can impact your situational awareness but developing good driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How hearing loss might be impacting your driving
Generally, driving is a vision-centric activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even if you have complete hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still probably be able to drive. While driving you do utilize your hearing a great deal, after all. Here are some typical examples:
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
- 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 driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often beep their horn. If you fail to notice 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 an issue.
- 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 your way.
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. For instance, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
All of these audio cues can help develop your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss progresses, you may miss more and more of these cues. But you can practice some positive measures to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Developing new safe driving habits
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s okay! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- Keep your phone out of reach: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still smart advice. One of the leading reasons for distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that goes double when you try to use them with hearing loss. You will simply be safer when you put your phone away and it could save your life.
- Don’t ignore your dash lights: usually, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So periodically look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- 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.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss will make it difficult for your ears to differentiate noises. When the wind is blowing and your passengers are talking, it may become easy for your ears to grow overstimulated, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So roll up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum while driving.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
Driving is one of those activities that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Have us program a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a lot of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. The size of the inside 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.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to die right when you’re driving to the store. That can distract you and may even bring about a dangerous situation. So make 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 wear it! So make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming signals.
Plenty of people with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.