Keep your eyes on the road. While this might be sound advice, how about your other senses? Your ears, for instance, are doing tons of work when you’re driving, helping you track other vehicles, alerting you to info on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other individuals in your vehicle.
So the way you drive can change if you’re going through hearing loss. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to stop driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are bigger liabilities in terms of safety. That said, those with diminished hearing need to take some specific safeguards to remain as safe as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing impairment may be affecting your situational awareness.
How hearing loss may be affecting your driving
Generally, 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 likely be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. Here are some prevalent examples:
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. 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 a better sense of other vehicles near you. For example, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
- 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 clue you in to your error before dangerous things take place.
All of these audio cues can help develop your overall situational awareness. You may begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But there are measures you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as possible while driving.
Practicing new safe driving habits
It’s no problem if you want to keep driving even after you have hearing loss! Here are some ways you can be certain to remain safe while driving:
- Check your mirrors more often: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Keep your phone out of reach: 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.
- Keep an eye on your dash lights.: Normally, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and make sure your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or you don’t have a check engine light on.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss is going to make it hard for your ears to differentiate sounds. When the wind is blowing and your passenger is talking, it might become easy for your ears to get overstimulated, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to lower the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and put up your windows.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can distract you and could even bring about a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s working properly.
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to program 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 factors we will use to optimize this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
- Wear your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t use it, it won’t help! So make sure you’re using your hearing aids each time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming signals.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, especially with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.