Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this may be sound advice, what about your other senses? For example, consider the amount of work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other people in your vehicle, call your attention to important info coming up on your dashboard, and help you keep track of other vehicles.
So when you’re coping with hearing loss, how you drive can vary. That’s not to say your driving will come to be excessively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are greater liabilities when it comes to safety. Nevertheless, some specific safeguards need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing loss might be influencing your situational awareness.
How hearing loss may be impacting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centric activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still probably be able to drive. While driving you do use your hearing a lot, after all. Here are some prevalent examples:
- Even though many vehicles are engineered to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. You will usually be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
- Other motorists will often honk their horns to make you aware of their presence. For instance, if you start drifting into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your error before dangerous things take place.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is attempting 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.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car is damaged in some way. If your engine is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
All of these audio cues can help develop your overall situational awareness. You may begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But you can practice 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 continue to drive, that’s fine! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- Put away your phone: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still smart advice. One of the leading reasons for distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t neglect your instrument panel: Usually, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. 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.
- 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.
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: It will be hard for your ears to distinguish sounds when you have hearing loss. It could be easy for your ears to become overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly speaking and music playing and wind blowing in your ears. 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.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And there are a few ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Have us dial in 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. The size of the inside of your vehicle and the fact that your passengers will be talking to you from the side or rear will be the factors we will use to fine tune this “car setting” for smoother safer driving.
- Wear your hearing aid every time you drive: It’s not going to help you if you don’t wear it! So every time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming signals.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to die right when you’re driving to the store. That can distract you and might even bring about a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s in working order.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, 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 develop safe driving habits.