Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this might be sound advice, what about your other senses? For example, consider how much work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to connect with other people in your vehicle, alert you to important info appearing on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So how you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will become excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. That being said, those with decreased hearing should take some special precautions to stay as safe as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing loss may be affecting your situational awareness.
How your driving may be effected by hearing loss
In general, driving is a vision-centered task (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 probably be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Here are some prevalent examples:
- Other drivers will commonly honk their horns to alert you to their presence. For instance, 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 take place.
- Even though most vehicles are engineered to reduce road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. For instance, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
- 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.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is attempting to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
All of these audio cues can help build your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss progresses, 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.
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 using 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 be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss is going to make it hard for your ears to differentiate noises. It will be easy for your ears to become overwhelmed and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind blowing in your ears. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to lower the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
- Put away your phone: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that goes double 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.
- Don’t ignore your instrument panel: usually, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. So regularly glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really be helpful. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Each time you drive, use your hearing aid: If you don’t wear it, it can’t help! So make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming signals.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you do a lot of driving. This setting will be adjusted for the inside space and configuration of your vehicle (where, normally, your passenger is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more pleasant.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to quit. That can distract you and might even lead to a dangerous situation. So make certain everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
Lots of people with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Establishing safer driving habits can help guarantee that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes remain safely on the road.