Keep your eyes on the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to 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 individuals in your vehicle, alert you to important information appearing on your dashboard, and help you keep track of other vehicles.
So when you’re coping with hearing loss, how you drive can change. That doesn’t automatically mean you will have to quit driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. Still, some special precautions should be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can impact your situational awareness but formulating good driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How your driving could be effected by hearing loss
In general, driving is a vision-centered activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even total hearing loss probably won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely might change the way you drive. While driving you do utilize your hearing a lot, after all. Some prevalent examples include:
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For instance, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Other motorists will often honk their horns to make you aware of their presence. For instance, if you begin to drift into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your error before bad things happen.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is attempting to alert you to something, such as 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 instance.
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be building better situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you may miss more and more of these cues. But there are measures you can take to ensure you stay as safe as possible while driving.
Developing new safe driving habits
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s fine! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- 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 generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Put your phone away: 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 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: Usually, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. So regularly look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be difficult for your ears to isolate noises when you’re going through hearing loss. 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 put up your window, turn down the music, and keep conversations to a minimum when driving.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
Driving is one of those activities that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really be helpful. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: 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 lead to a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s in working order.
- Wear your hearing aid each time you drive: It won’t help you if you don’t wear it! So each time you drive, be sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming signals.
- Have us program a driving setting for you: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you drive a lot. This setting will be adjusted for the inside space and setup of your vehicle (where, usually, your conversation partner is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more pleasant.
Lots of people with hearing loss keep driving and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.