Keep your eyes on the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. Your ears, for example, are doing tons of work when you’re driving, helping you track other vehicles, calling your attention to info on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other passengers in your vehicle.
So when you’re coping with hearing loss, how you drive can vary. That’s not to say your driving will come to be excessively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are larger liabilities when it comes to safety. Still, some special safeguards need to be taken by people 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 may be influencing your situational awareness.
How your driving might be impacted by hearing loss
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 probably be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. Some typical examples include:
- Other motorists will often use their horns to make you aware of their presence. For example, if you begin to drift into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your error before bad things take place.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. If your engine is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for instance.
- 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.
- Your vehicle will often make audible sounds and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be building better situational awareness. You could start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss progresses. But you can take some positive measures to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Practicing new safe driving habits
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s fine! Here are a few ways you can be certain to stay safe when out on the road:
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss is going to make it difficult for your ears to differentiate sounds. 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 blowing in your ears. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to decrease the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
- 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 make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Keep your phone out of reach: Well, this is wise advice whether you have hearing loss or not. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that doubles when you try to use them when you have hearing loss. You will simply be safer when you put your phone away and it could save your life.
- Keep an eye on your dash lights.: Normally, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still on, or your check engine light isn’t on.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those instances where having a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- Wear your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So each time you drive, be sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain get used to the sounds your hearing aid sends your way.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to die right when you’re driving to the store. That can distract you and might even bring about a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s working properly.
- Have us program a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. 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 easier safer driving.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, particularly with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.