Keep your eyes on the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. As an example, consider how much work your ears are doing when you’re driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other individuals in your vehicle, call your attention to important information appearing on your dashboard, and help you track other vehicles.
So when you experience hearing impairment, how you drive can vary. That’s not to say your driving will come to be prohibitively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. Nevertheless, some specific precautions need to be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing impairment may be affecting your situational awareness.
How your driving might be effected by hearing loss
Vision is the main sense utilized when driving. Even total hearing loss most likely won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely may change the way you drive. While driving you do use your hearing a great deal, after all. Some typical examples include:
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
- Other motorists will often use their horns to make you aware of their presence. If you fail to see the light turn to green, for example, or you begin to wander into the other lane, a horn can alert you before it becomes a problem.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles near you. For instance, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be developing stronger situational awareness. As your hearing loss gets worse, 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.
Practicing new safe driving habits
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s okay! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- 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 generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Keep your phone out of reach: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still smart advice. One of the leading reasons for distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that goes double when you attempt to use them when you have hearing loss. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Don’t ignore your instrument panel: Typically, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So you’ll want to make sure you glance down (when it’s safe) and make sure your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or your check engine light isn’t on.
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: Hearing loss will make it difficult for your ears to differentiate sounds. When the wind is blowing and your passengers are speaking, it may become easy for your ears to grow overstimulated, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So roll up your window, turn down the volume, and keep the talking to a minimum while driving.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
If you are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those scenarios where wearing a hearing aid can really help. And there are several ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re driving:
- Have us program a driving setting for you: 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 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.
- Use your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t use it, it won’t help! So be sure you’re using your hearing aids every time you drive. This will also help your brain acclimate to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid charged and clean: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to die right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can distract you and might even create a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s working properly.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, particularly with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.