Keep your eyes on the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. As an example, consider the amount of work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to connect with other people in your vehicle, alert you to important information coming up on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So when you experience hearing impairment, the way you drive can change. That doesn’t automatically mean you will have to stop driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are greater liabilities when it comes to safety. That being said, those with declining hearing should take some specific precautions to remain as safe as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but acquiring safe driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How your driving could be impacted by hearing loss
Generally, driving is a vision-centered task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even complete hearing loss most likely won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely might change how you drive. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Some typical examples include:
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
- If another motorist needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often beep 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 bad things happen.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car is damaged in some way. If your motor is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles near you. For instance, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be building better situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you may miss more and more of these cues. But you can practice some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Practicing new safe driving habits
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s okay! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- Put away your phone: Well, this is wise advice whether you have hearing loss or not. Phones are among the highest causes of distraction on the road these days. 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: Normally, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So regularly look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be challenging for your ears to isolate sounds when you have hearing loss. When the wind is blowing and your passengers are talking, it might become easy for your ears to grow overwhelmed, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So put up your window, turn down the volume, and keep conversations to a minimum while driving.
- Check your mirrors more often: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you have 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:
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: If you intend to do a lot 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 optimize this “car setting” for easier 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 need is for your battery to die. That can be distracting and possibly even dangerous. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s in working order.
- Wear your hearing aid every time you drive: It won’t help you if you don’t wear it! So each time you drive, be sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain get used to the sounds your hearing aid sends into your ears.
Lots of individuals with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Developing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes stay safely on the road.