Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this might be sound advice, what about your other senses? Your ears, for example, are doing a ton of work while you’re driving, helping you monitor other vehicles, calling your attention to info on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other people in your vehicle.
So the way you drive can change if you’re going through hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will become excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. Nevertheless, some special precautions need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing impairment may be affecting your situational awareness.
How hearing loss may be affecting your driving
Generally, driving is a vision-centered activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even full-blown hearing loss probably won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely may change how you drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can let you know. If your engine is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles around you. For example, you will normally 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 sounds and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often beep their horn. For instance, 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 error before dangerous things happen.
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be building stronger situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you may miss more and more of these cues. But you can take some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Developing new safe driving habits
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s okay! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- Keep your phone stowed: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still smart advice. Phones are among the highest causes of distraction on the road today. And with hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. You will simply be safer when you put away your phone and it could save your life.
- Keep an eye on your instrument panel: Normally, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So you’ll want to make sure you glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or your check engine light isn’t on.
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be hard for your ears to distinguish noises when you’re going through hearing loss. When the wind is blowing and your passenger is speaking, it could become easy for your ears to grow overwhelmed, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to decrease the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and put up your windows.
- Check your mirrors more often: 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
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where having a hearing aid can really help. And there are a few ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re driving:
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to die. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So make sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
- Wear your hearing aid each time you drive: It won’t help you if you don’t wear it! So make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids each time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming signals.
- Have us program a driving setting for you: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you drive a lot. This setting will be adjusted for the interior space and configuration of your vehicle (where, usually, your passenger is beside and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more pleasant.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, particularly with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Establishing safer driving habits can help guarantee that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes stay safely on the road.