Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this might be sound advice, what about your other senses? For example, think about the amount of work your ears are doing when you’re driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other people in your vehicle, alert you to important info coming up on your dashboard, and help you keep track of other vehicles.
So the way you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing loss. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are greater liabilities when it comes to safety. Still, some specific 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 might be influencing your situational awareness.
How hearing loss may be affecting your driving
Generally, driving is a vision-centric activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still likely 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 see them.
- Your vehicle will often make audible sounds and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- Even though many vehicles are engineered to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for instance.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can let you know. For example, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- If another motorist needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often use their horn. For instance, if you start drifting into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your mistake before dangerous things take place.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be building better situational awareness. You could start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But there are measures you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as you can while driving.
Practicing new safe driving habits
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s okay! Here are a few ways you can be certain to remain safe when out on the road:
- 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 keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Keep your phone stowed: Well, this is good advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road these days. And that doubles when you try to use them when you have hearing loss. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Keep an eye on your instrument panel: Usually, 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.
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: Hearing loss is going to make it difficult for your ears to separate noises. When the wind is howling and your passenger is talking, it could become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum while driving.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
Driving is one of those activities that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- Use your hearing aid every time you drive: It won’t help you if you don’t use it! So be sure you’re wearing your hearing aids each time you get behind the wheel. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming sounds.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid charged and clean: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to quit. That can distract you and may even bring about a dangerous situation. So make sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you intend to do a fair amount 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 speaking to you from the side or rear will be the variables we will use to fine tune this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
Lots of individuals 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.