Keep your eyes on the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. Your ears, for example, are doing a ton of work while you’re driving, helping you keep track of other vehicles, calling your attention to information on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other people in your vehicle.
So how you drive can change if you’re going through hearing loss. That’s not to say your driving will come to be prohibitively dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. Still, some specific safeguards need to 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 could be affecting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centric activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even total hearing loss probably won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely could change the way you drive. After all, you use your hearing a great deal while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- Even though many vehicles are designed to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often beep their horn. If you fail to see the light turn to green, for example, or you start to wander into the other lane, a horn can alert you before it becomes an issue.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. For instance, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
All of these audio cues can help build your overall situational awareness. As your hearing loss progresses, you might be missing more and more of these cues. But there are measures you can take to ensure you stay as safe as possible while driving.
Developing new safe driving habits
It’s fine if you want to continue driving even after developing hearing loss! Here are a few ways you can be certain to remain safe when out on the road:
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: Hearing loss will make it difficult for your ears to separate sounds. When the wind is howling and your passengers are talking, it might 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 lower the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and put up your windows.
- Put your phone away: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still good advice. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road today. And with hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. You will simply be safer when you put away your phone and it could save your life.
- Don’t neglect your dash lights: Typically, 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: You may not be able to hear an ambulance pull up behind you–even with all those sirens going. So be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
If you are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where wearing 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 program 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. This setting will be calibrated for the interior space and setup of your vehicle (where, normally, your conversation partner is beside and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more enjoyable.
- Use your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So every time you drive, make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming sounds.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right when you’re driving to the store. That can be distracting and possibly even dangerous. So make sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, especially with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Developing safer driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes remain safely on the road.