Keep your eyes on the road. Of course, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. Your ears, for example, are doing tons 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 the way you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing loss. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much greater liabilities. That said, those with declining hearing need to take some special precautions to remain as safe as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing impairment may be influencing your situational awareness.
How hearing loss might be affecting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centered task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even total hearing loss probably won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely may change how you drive. While driving you do utilize your hearing a lot, after all. Here are some prevalent examples:
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car is damaged in some way. For instance, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is trying to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles near you. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often use their horn. If you fail to notice 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.
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be building stronger situational awareness. You could start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But there are measures you can take to ensure you stay as safe as possible while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s fine! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- Keep your phone out of reach: 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 that goes double when you try to use them with hearing loss. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Keep an eye on your instrument panel: usually, 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.
- 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 be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: Hearing loss will make it difficult for your ears to separate sounds. When the wind is blowing and your passenger is talking, it may become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So roll up your window, turn down the volume, and keep conversations to a minimum while driving.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: When you’re on your way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to die. That can distract you and may even lead to a dangerous situation. So make sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: 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 inside 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 pleasant.
- Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: If you don’t wear it, it can’t help! So make certain you’re using your hearing aids each time you drive. This will also help your brain get used to the sounds your hearing aid sends into your ears.
Lots of individuals with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.