Keep your eyes on the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. For example, think about 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 how you drive can change if you’re going through hearing loss. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to quit driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are bigger liabilities in terms of safety. Still, some specific precautions should be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Developing 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 may be impacting your driving
Generally, driving is a vision-centric activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still likely be able to drive. While driving you do use your hearing a lot, after all. Some typical examples include:
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- Other drivers will commonly honk 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 make you aware of your mistake before dangerous things take place.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. If your engine is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for instance.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is attempting to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Even though many vehicles are designed to reduce 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.
All of these audio cues can help build your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you might be missing more and more of these cues. But there are steps you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as possible while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s okay! Here are some ways you can make sure to remain safe 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 generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be hard for your ears to distinguish noises when you’re going through hearing loss. It will be easy for your ears to become overwhelmed and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind in your ears. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to reduce the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and put up your windows.
- Keep your phone out of reach: Well, this is good advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. One of the leading reasons for distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And with hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t disregard your dash lights: Usually, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. 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 your check engine light isn’t on.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
If you have hearing loss, driving is one of those scenarios where wearing a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you drive a lot. 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 variables we will use to optimize this “car setting” for smoother safer driving.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid charged and clean: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can distract you and might even create a dangerous situation. So be sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Wear your hearing aid every time you drive: If you don’t wear it, it won’t help! So make sure you’re using your hearing aids every time you get behind the wheel. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming sounds.
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.