Keep your eyes on the road. While this may be sound advice, how about your other senses? Your ears, for example, are doing a ton of work when you’re driving, helping you monitor other vehicles, calling your attention to info on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other individuals in your vehicle.
So how you drive can change if you’re going through hearing impairment. That doesn’t inevitably mean you will need to stop driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much bigger liabilities. Nevertheless, some specific safeguards need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing impairment might be influencing your situational awareness.
How hearing loss might be impacting your driving
Generally, driving is a vision-centric task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even full-blown hearing loss probably won’t keep you from driving, but it very likely could change how you drive. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Some prevalent examples include:
- Other drivers will commonly use their horns to make you aware of their presence. For instance, if you begin to drift into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your mistake before dangerous things happen.
- Even though most vehicles are designed to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, 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.
- 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).
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 advances. But there are steps you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as possible while driving.
Practicing new safe driving habits
It’s fine if you want to continue driving even after developing hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- 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.
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be difficult for your ears to distinguish noises when you’re going through hearing loss. It could be easy for your ears to get overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly speaking and music playing and wind blowing in your ears. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to reduce the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
- Put your phone away: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. Today, one of the leading reasons for distraction is a cellphone. And that goes double when you try to use them with hearing loss. You will simply be safer when you put away your phone and it could save your life.
- Don’t ignore your instrument panel: Typically, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. So you’ll want to make sure you glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still on, or your check engine light isn’t on.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
If you have hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where wearing a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- 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 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 pleasant.
- Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: It won’t help you if you don’t use it! So be sure you’re wearing your hearing aids each time you get behind the wheel. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming signals.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean 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 maybe even dangerous. So be sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, particularly 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.