Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this may be sound advice, how about your other senses? For example, think about the amount of work your ears are doing when you’re driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other individuals in your vehicle, alert you to important info appearing on your dashboard, and help you track other vehicles.
So when you experience hearing impairment, the way you drive can vary. That doesn’t automatically mean you will need to quit driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are greater liabilities when it comes to safety. That being said, those with decreased hearing need to take some special safeguards to stay as safe as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing loss might be influencing your situational awareness.
How hearing loss might be impacting your driving
Generally, driving is a vision-centered task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even complete hearing loss probably won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely could change how you drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles around you. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for instance.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. If your motor is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for instance.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is attempting to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- If another motorist needs to make you aware of their presence, they will usually use their horn. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for instance, or you begin to drift into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes an issue.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be building better situational awareness. As your hearing loss gets worse, you may miss more and more of these cues. But you can practice some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
New safe driving habits to develop
It’s no problem if you want to keep driving even after you have hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road with 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 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 disregard your instrument panel: usually, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So periodically glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Check your mirrors more often: 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.
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: Hearing loss will make it difficult for your ears to differentiate sounds. It could be easy for your ears to get overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind blowing in your ears. So roll up your window, turn down the volume, and keep conversations to a minimum while driving.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
Driving is one of those activities that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really be helpful. And there are a few 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: 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 ensure everything’s in working order.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you anticipate doing a lot of driving, you can ask us to give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be adjusted for the inside space and configuration of your vehicle (where, usually, your conversation partner is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
- Wear your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t use it, it won’t help! So make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you get behind the wheel. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming signals.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, particularly with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Developing safer driving habits can help guarantee that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes remain safely on the road.