Keep your eyes on the road. While this might be sound advice, what about your other senses? For example, consider how much work your ears are doing when you’re driving. You’re using your ears to connect with other people in your vehicle, call your attention to important information coming up on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So when you’re coping with hearing loss, the way you drive can change. That’s not to say your driving will become excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. Still, some specific precautions should be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing impairment may be affecting your situational awareness.
How hearing loss might be impacting your driving
Vision is the primary sense utilized when driving. Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still likely be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. If your motor is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- Your vehicle will often make audible sounds and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- Even though many vehicles are designed to reduce road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. For instance, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- 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 example, or you begin 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. You may begin 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.
Practicing new safe driving habits
It’s fine if you want to keep driving even after you have hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- Put your phone away: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still smart advice. One of the leading reasons for distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that goes double 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, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So you’ll want to make sure you glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still on, or your check engine light isn’t on.
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: It will be challenging for your ears to distinguish sounds when you have hearing loss. When the wind is howling and your passengers are talking, it could become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep conversations to a minimum when driving.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
Driving is one of those activities that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And there are a few ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re driving:
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to die right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can distract you and might even bring about a dangerous situation. So make certain everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Each time you drive, use your hearing aid: It won’t help you if you don’t use it! So make sure you’re using your hearing aids each time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming signals.
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you do a lot of driving. This setting will be calibrated for the inside space and configuration of your vehicle (where, normally, your conversation partner is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, particularly with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.