Keep your eyes on the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. As an example, think about the amount of work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to connect with other people in your vehicle, call your attention to important info appearing on your dashboard, and help you track other vehicles.
So when you’re coping with hearing loss, how you drive can vary. That’s not to say your driving will become excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much greater liabilities. That being said, those with decreased hearing should take some specific safeguards to stay as safe as possible.
Hearing loss can impact your situational awareness but acquiring safe driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How your driving may be effected by hearing loss
Generally, driving is a vision-centered activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even total hearing loss most likely won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely may change how you drive. After all, you use your hearing a great deal while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles around you. You will usually be able to hear an oncoming truck, for instance.
- If another motorist needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often beep their horn. 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 mistake before bad things take place.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For instance, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be developing stronger situational awareness. As your hearing loss gets worse, you might be missing more and more of these cues. But you can take some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s okay! Here are a few ways you can make sure to stay safe while driving:
- Put your phone away: Well, this is good advice whether you have hearing loss or not. Today, one of the leading reasons for distraction is a cellphone. And with hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Don’t disregard your dash lights: Typically, when you need to give 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 blinking, or you don’t have a check engine light on.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss will make it hard for your ears to differentiate noises. When the wind is blowing and your passengers are speaking, it might become easy for your ears to grow overstimulated, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So roll up your window, turn down the music, and keep conversations to a minimum when 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 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 there are several 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 on your way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to quit. That can distract you and might even bring about a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s working properly.
- Every time you drive, use your hearing aid: It’s not going to help you if you don’t use it! So be sure you’re using your hearing aids each time you get behind the wheel. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming sounds.
- Have us program a driving setting for you: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you drive a lot. The size of the interior of your vehicle and the fact that your passengers will be talking to you from the side or rear will be the variables we will use to fine tune this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, especially with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.