Don’t take your eyes off the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. For example, consider the amount of work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to connect with other individuals in your vehicle, alert you to important info appearing on your dashboard, and help you keep track of other vehicles.
So how you drive can change if you’re going through hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will come to be prohibitively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are bigger liabilities when it comes to safety. That said, those with declining hearing should take some special safeguards to remain as safe as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing loss may be affecting your situational awareness.
How your driving might be impacted by hearing loss
Vision is the principal sense used when driving. Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving may change but you will still probably be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing a great deal while you’re driving. Here are some prevalent examples:
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can let you know. If your engine is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- Even though many vehicles are designed to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for instance.
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will usually beep their horn. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for example, or you begin to drift into the other lane, a horn can alert you before it becomes an issue.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
By using all of these audio cues, you will be building stronger situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you may miss more and more of these cues. But you can practice some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Practicing new safe driving habits
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s fine! Here are a few ways you can be certain to remain safe when out on the road:
- Keep your phone out of reach: Even if your hearing is strong, 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 when you have hearing loss. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t ignore your dash lights: Usually, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and make sure your turn signals aren’t still on, or you don’t have a check engine light on.
- Check your mirrors more often: 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.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss is going to make it hard for your ears to differentiate sounds. It could be easy for your ears to get overwhelmed and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly speaking and music playing and wind blowing in your ears. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum when driving.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
Driving is one of those activities 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 advantage:
- 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 adjusted for the inside space and setup of your vehicle (where, usually, your passenger is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: When you’re on your way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to quit. That can be distracting and possibly even dangerous. So make sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
- Every time you drive, use your hearing aid: It’s not going to help you if you don’t use it! So every 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 sounds.
Lots of individuals with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.