Don’t take your eyes off the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. Your ears, for example, are doing a lot of work while you’re driving, helping you monitor other vehicles, alerting you to information on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other people in your vehicle.
So when you experience hearing impairment, how you drive can vary. That doesn’t automatically mean you will have to quit driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. That said, those with diminished hearing need to take some special precautions to stay as safe as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but acquiring safe driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How hearing loss may 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 probably be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Here are some prevalent examples:
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles around you. For instance, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can let you know. For instance, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Other drivers will often use their horns to make you aware of their presence. For example, if you start drifting into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your mistake before bad things happen.
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
All of these audio cues can help develop your total situational awareness. You may begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss progresses. But there are measures you can take to ensure you stay as safe as possible while driving.
Practicing new safe driving habits
It’s fine if you want to continue driving even after developing hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- 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 these days. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. You will simply be safer when you put your phone away and it could save your life.
- Don’t ignore your dash lights: Typically, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. So regularly look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- 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.
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: Hearing loss will make it hard for your ears to differentiate sounds. When the wind is blowing and your passengers are talking, it may become easy for your ears to grow overstimulated, which can cause fatigue and distraction. 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.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid charged and clean: 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 be sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
- Use your hearing aid every time you drive: It’s not going to help you if you don’t use it! So make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids each time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming signals.
- Have us program a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a lot of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. The size of the interior 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.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, especially with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.