Keep your eyes on the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. For example, consider how much work your ears are doing when you’re driving. You’re using your ears to connect with other people in your vehicle, alert you to important info coming up on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So when you’re coping with hearing impairment, how you drive can vary. That’s not to say your driving will come to be excessively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are greater liabilities in terms of safety. Nevertheless, some special safeguards need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing loss may be affecting your situational awareness.
How hearing loss could be affecting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centric task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even if you have complete hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still probably be able to drive. While driving you do use your hearing a lot, after all. Some typical examples include:
- Other drivers will commonly honk their horns to make you aware of their presence. For example, if you begin to drift into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your mistake before dangerous things happen.
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can let you know. For example, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is attempting to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Even though most vehicles are designed to reduce road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. For instance, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be developing stronger 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.
Developing new safe driving habits
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s fine! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: You may not be able to hear an ambulance pull up behind you–even with all those sirens going. So make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss will make it hard for your ears to differentiate sounds. It will be easy for your ears to become overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly speaking and music playing and wind blowing in your ears. So roll up your window, turn down the volume, and keep the talking to a minimum when driving.
- Put your phone away: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still smart advice. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road today. And that doubles when you attempt to use them when you have hearing loss. You will simply be safer when you put away your phone and it could save your life.
- Don’t ignore your dash lights: usually, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or you don’t have a check engine light on.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where wearing a hearing aid can really come in handy. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: When you’re on your way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to quit. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s working properly.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: 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 setup of your vehicle (where, normally, your passenger is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
- Use your hearing aid every time you drive: It’s not going to help you if you don’t use it! So each time you drive, make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain get used to the sounds your hearing aid sends into your ears.
Plenty of individuals with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Developing safer driving habits can help ensure that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes stay safely on the road.