Don’t take your eyes off the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. As an example, think about the amount of work your ears are doing when you’re driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other people in your vehicle, alert you to important info appearing on your dashboard, and help you keep track of other vehicles.
So when you’re coping with hearing loss, the way you drive can vary. That doesn’t inevitably mean you will need to quit driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. Nevertheless, some special precautions 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 drive safely even if hearing loss might be influencing your situational awareness.
How your driving might be impacted by hearing loss
Vision is the primary sense used when driving. Even full-blown hearing loss most likely won’t keep you from driving, but it very likely could change how you drive. While driving you do use your hearing a great deal, after all. Here are some typical examples:
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often beep their horn. For instance, if you start drifting into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your error before dangerous things happen.
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- Even though most vehicles are designed to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. For instance, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be building stronger situational awareness. You may begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But there are steps you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as possible while driving.
Developing new safe driving habits
It’s no problem if you want to keep driving even after developing hearing loss! Here are a few ways you can be certain 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 keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Keep your phone stowed: Well, this is good advice whether you have hearing loss or not. One of the leading causes of 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 ignore your instrument panel: Normally, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. So periodically glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: Hearing loss will make it hard for your ears to differentiate sounds. When the wind is howling and your passenger is talking, it may become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So roll up your window, turn down the volume, and keep conversations to a minimum while driving.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those scenarios where having a hearing aid can really help. And there are several ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re 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 bring about a dangerous situation. So make sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
- Each time you drive, use your hearing aid: It’s not going to help you if you don’t wear it! So each time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming sounds.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you anticipate doing a lot of driving, you can ask us to give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. The size of the interior of your vehicle and the fact that your passengers will be speaking to you from the side or rear will be the variables we will use to optimize this “car setting” for smoother safer driving.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, especially with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Establishing safer driving habits can help guarantee that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes stay safely on the road.