Don’t take your eyes off the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. As an example, consider how much work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to connect with other individuals in your vehicle, alert you to important information coming up on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So when you experience hearing impairment, the way you drive can vary. That’s not to say your driving will come to be excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. That being said, those with diminished hearing need to take some special safeguards to stay as safe as possible.
Developing 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 may be impacting your driving
Generally, driving is a vision-centric activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even total hearing loss most likely won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely might change the way you drive. While driving you do utilize your hearing a lot, after all. Some prevalent examples include:
- Even though most vehicles are engineered to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for instance.
- Other motorists will commonly honk their horns to make you aware of their presence. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for instance, or you start to wander into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes an issue.
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is attempting to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
All of these audio cues can help build your overall situational awareness. You may start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss progresses. But you can practice some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Developing new safe driving habits
It’s no problem if you want to continue driving even after developing hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- Put your phone away: Well, this is wise advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road these days. And that doubles 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.
- Don’t neglect your dash lights: Normally, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So periodically look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- 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 keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: It will be challenging for your ears to isolate noises when you have hearing loss. When the wind is blowing and your passenger is speaking, it could become easy for your ears to get overstimulated, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So roll up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum while driving.
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 asset when you’re driving:
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid charged and clean: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to die. That can be distracting and maybe even dangerous. So make sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: If you intend to do a lot of driving, you can ask us to give you 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 variables we will use to fine tune this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
- Each time you drive, use your hearing aid: If you don’t use it, it won’t help! So make sure you’re using your hearing aids every time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming sounds.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, especially with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.