Don’t take your eyes off the road. Of course, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. Your ears, for example, are doing a ton of work when you’re driving, helping you track other vehicles, alerting you 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 experiencing hearing loss. That’s not to say your driving will come to be prohibitively dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. Still, some special precautions should be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing loss might be affecting your situational awareness.
How your driving may be impacted by hearing loss
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 likely be able to drive. While driving you do utilize your hearing a great deal, after all. Some prevalent examples include:
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car is damaged in some way. For example, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles around you. For instance, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Other motorists will commonly honk their horns to alert you to their presence. For instance, if you begin to drift into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your error before dangerous things take place.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be developing stronger situational awareness. As your hearing loss progresses, you may miss more and more of these cues. But there are steps you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as possible while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
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:
- Put away your phone: Well, this is good advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that doubles 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 disregard your dash lights: Typically, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. So regularly look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: It will be hard for your ears to isolate noises when you’re going through hearing loss. It will be easy for your ears to get overwhelmed and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly speaking and music playing and wind blowing in your ears. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum when driving.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really be helpful. And there are a few ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: If you intend to do a lot of driving, you can ask us to give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be adjusted for the interior 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.
- Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you get behind the wheel. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming signals.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right when you’re driving to the store. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s in working order.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, especially with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Developing safer driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes stay safely on the road.