Don’t take your eyes off the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about 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 engaged with the other individuals in your vehicle.
So how you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will come to be excessively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are bigger liabilities when it comes to safety. 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 affect your situational awareness but formulating safe driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How your driving might be effected by hearing loss
In general, driving is a vision-centered activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even if you have total 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 vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- Other drivers will commonly use their horns to alert you to their presence. For example, if you begin to drift into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your error before bad things happen.
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For instance, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Even though most vehicles are designed 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.
All of these audio cues can help develop your overall situational awareness. You may start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss progresses. But you can take some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
New safe driving habits to develop
It’s no problem if you want to continue driving even after you have hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- Keep your phone stowed: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still smart advice. Today, one of the leading reasons for distraction is a cellphone. And with hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Don’t neglect your instrument panel: Typically, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So regularly 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. It will be easy for your ears to become 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.
- 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.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
Driving is one of those activities that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. 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 use it, it can’t help! So every 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 signals.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: When you’re on your way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to die. That can distract you and may even lead to a dangerous situation. So make certain everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
- Have us program a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to give you 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 smoother safer driving.
Lots of individuals with hearing loss keep driving and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.