Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this may be sound advice, what about your other senses? Your ears, for instance, are doing tons of work while you’re driving, helping you track other vehicles, alerting you to information on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other people in your vehicle.
So when you’re coping with hearing loss, the way you drive can vary. That doesn’t automatically mean you will have to stop driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are bigger liabilities in terms of safety. That said, those with diminished hearing should take some special precautions to remain as safe as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing impairment might be affecting your situational awareness.
How your driving may be effected by hearing loss
Generally, driving is a vision-centric activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even full-blown hearing loss most likely won’t keep you from driving, but it very likely could change how you drive. After all, you use your hearing a great deal while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- Even though many vehicles are designed to reduce road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for instance.
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often use their horn. 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 bad things happen.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. If your motor 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 progresses. But you can take some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Developing new safe driving habits
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s fine! Here are some ways you can be certain to stay safe when out on the road:
- Put your phone away: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still good advice. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that goes double when you attempt to use them when you have hearing loss. You will simply be safer when you put your phone away and it could save your life.
- Don’t ignore your dash lights: Typically, when you need to pay 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 make sure your turn signals aren’t still on, or you don’t have a check engine light on.
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be challenging for your ears to distinguish sounds when you have hearing loss. When the wind is howling and your passengers are speaking, it may become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, 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 discussions to a minimum, and put up your windows.
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: 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 keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
Driving is one of those activities that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really be helpful. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- Wear your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t wear it, it won’t help! So make certain you’re using your hearing aids each time you get behind the wheel. This will also help your brain get used to the sounds your hearing aid sends into your ears.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you intend to do a lot of driving, you can ask us to program 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.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to die. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s working properly.
Lots of individuals with hearing loss keep driving and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Developing safer driving habits can help guarantee that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes stay safely on the road.