Don’t take your eyes off the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. Your ears, for instance, are doing tons of work while you’re driving, helping you keep track of other vehicles, calling your attention to information on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other passengers in your vehicle.
So when you experience hearing loss, the way you drive can vary. That’s not to say your driving will come to be excessively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are bigger liabilities when it comes to safety. Nevertheless, some special safeguards need to be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but acquiring good driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How your driving might be impacted by hearing loss
Vision is the principal sense used when driving. Even complete hearing loss probably won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely may change the way you drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often use their horn. For example, if you begin to drift into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your error before dangerous things happen.
- Even though most vehicles are designed to reduce road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be building stronger situational awareness. You could start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss progresses. But you can take some positive measures to keep your driving as safe as possible.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s fine! Here are some ways you can be certain to stay safe when out on the road:
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: 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 your phone out of reach: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still smart advice. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road today. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Don’t disregard your dash lights: Usually, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still on, or you don’t have a check engine light on.
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be difficult for your ears to isolate sounds when you’re going through hearing loss. When the wind is blowing and your passenger is talking, 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 smart idea to reduce the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where having a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- Each time you drive, use your hearing aid: It’s not going to help you if you don’t wear it! So make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming signals.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you anticipate doing a lot of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. 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 optimize this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can distract you and might even create a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s in working order.
Lots of individuals with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.