Don’t take your eyes off the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about 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 info on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other people in your vehicle.
So when you’re coping with hearing loss, how you drive can change. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will need to quit driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. That said, those with diminished hearing should take some specific safeguards to stay as safe as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but formulating good driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How your driving may 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 if you have complete hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still probably be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. Here are some prevalent examples:
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For instance, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will usually use their horn. For instance, if you begin to drift into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your error before dangerous things happen.
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles near you. For example, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
All of these audio cues can help build your overall situational awareness. You could begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss progresses. But you can practice 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 keep driving, that’s okay! Here are some ways you can make sure to stay safe while driving:
- Keep your phone out of reach: Well, this is wise advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that doubles when you try 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 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 make sure you 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 hard for your ears to isolate sounds when you have hearing loss. When the wind is howling and your passenger is talking, it may become easy for your ears to get overstimulated, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So when you’re driving, it’s a smart idea to decrease the volume on your radio, keep conversation 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 generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you have 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:
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you drive a lot. This setting will be calibrated for the inside space and configuration of your vehicle (where, usually, your conversation partner is to your side 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 wear it, it won’t help! So make sure you’re using your hearing aids each time you drive. This will also help your brain acclimate to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to die right when you’re driving to the store. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So make certain everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
Lots of people with hearing loss keep driving and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Developing safer driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes remain safely on the road.