Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this might be sound advice, how 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, call your attention to important information appearing on your dashboard, and help you track other vehicles.
So how you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing loss. That doesn’t inevitably mean you will need to stop driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. That said, those with diminished hearing should take some specific precautions to remain 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 impacted by hearing loss
Generally, driving is a vision-centered task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even total hearing loss most likely won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely may change the way you drive. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Here are some prevalent examples:
- 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.
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- 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 example.
- Other motorists will often use their horns to make you aware of their presence. For example, if you start drifting into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your error before dangerous things happen.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be developing stronger situational awareness. As your hearing loss progresses, you might be missing more and more of these cues. But you can practice some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Practicing new safe driving habits
It’s fine if you want to continue driving even after you have hearing loss! Here are a few ways you can make sure to remain safe when out on the road:
- Keep your phone stowed: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still smart advice. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road today. And that goes double when you attempt 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 instrument panel: Normally, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. So periodically look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss will make it difficult for your ears to differentiate sounds. When the wind is blowing and your passengers are speaking, it may become easy for your ears to grow overwhelmed, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum when driving.
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
If you have hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where having a hearing aid can really come in handy. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to die right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can distract you and could even create a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s in working order.
- Wear your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So every time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain get used to the sounds your hearing aid sends your way.
- Have us program a driving setting for you: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you drive a lot. This setting will be calibrated for the inside space and configuration of your vehicle (where, normally, your passenger is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, especially with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Establishing good driving habits can help guarantee that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes stay safely on the road.