Don’t take your eyes off the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. Your ears, for example, are doing tons of work while you’re driving, helping you track other vehicles, calling your attention to information on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other people in your vehicle.
So when you experience hearing impairment, the way you drive can vary. That’s not to say your driving will become excessively dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. Still, some specific 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 developing good driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How hearing loss might be impacting your driving
Vision is the principal sense utilized when driving. Even if you have complete hearing loss, your driving may change but you will still probably be able to drive. While driving you do use your hearing a lot, after all. Here are some typical examples:
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles around you. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for instance.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is attempting to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Other drivers will commonly use their horns to make you aware of their presence. For instance, if you start drifting into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your mistake before dangerous things take place.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. If your engine is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
All of these audio cues can help develop your total situational awareness. You could begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But there are steps you can take to ensure you stay as safe as you can while driving.
Developing new safe driving habits
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s fine! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- 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.
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be difficult for your ears to distinguish noises when you’re going through hearing loss. When the wind is howling and your passengers are talking, it might become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to reduce the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
- Put away your phone: Well, this is wise advice whether you have hearing loss or not. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road these days. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. You will simply be safer when you put your phone away and it could save your life.
- Keep an eye on your dash lights.: Usually, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So you’ll want to make sure you glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or you don’t have a check engine light on.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
If you are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those scenarios where wearing a hearing aid can really come in handy. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Use your hearing aid every time you drive: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So each time you drive, be 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: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you do a lot of driving. 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 smoother safer driving.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to die. That can be distracting and maybe even dangerous. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s in working order.
Plenty 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 remain focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.