Keep your eyes on the road. While this might be sound advice, how about your other senses? Your ears, for example, are doing tons of work while you’re driving, helping you keep track of other vehicles, calling your attention to info on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other people in your vehicle.
So how you drive can change if you’re going through hearing impairment. That doesn’t automatically mean you will have to stop driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much greater liabilities. Nevertheless, some specific safeguards should be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing loss may be affecting your situational awareness.
How your driving may be impacted 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 probably won’t keep you from driving, but it very likely may change how you drive. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Here are some prevalent examples:
- 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.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles near you. For instance, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is trying to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will usually beep their horn. If you fail to see 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 a problem.
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be developing stronger situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you might be missing more and more of these cues. But there are steps you can take to ensure you stay as safe as possible while driving.
Developing new safe driving habits
It’s fine if you want to keep driving even after developing hearing loss! Here are some ways you can be certain to remain safe when out on the road:
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: It will be hard for your ears to isolate sounds when you’re going through hearing loss. When the wind is blowing and your passenger is speaking, it might become easy for your ears to grow overstimulated, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to decrease the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
- 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.
- Put your phone away: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that goes double when you try 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 neglect your instrument panel: Typically, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding 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 are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those instances where wearing a hearing aid can really come in handy. And there are several ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Have us program a driving setting for you: If you intend to do a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be calibrated for the inside space and configuration of your vehicle (where, usually, your conversation partner is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more enjoyable.
- Each time you drive, wear your hearing aid: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming sounds.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s in working order.
Plenty of people with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Developing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes remain safely on the road.