Don’t take your eyes off the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. Your ears, for instance, are doing a lot of work when you’re driving, helping you keep track of other vehicles, alerting you to information on your dashboard, and keeping you connected 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 come to be excessively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are greater liabilities in terms of safety. Nevertheless, some special precautions need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing loss may be influencing your situational awareness.
How hearing loss might be impacting your driving
Vision is the primary sense utilized when driving. Even full-blown hearing loss most likely won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely could change the way you drive. After all, you use your hearing a great deal while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- Even though most vehicles are designed to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- Your vehicle will often make audible sounds and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. If your engine is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
- If another motorist 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 begin to wander into the other lane, a horn can alert you before it becomes a problem.
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be building better situational awareness. You could begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But there are steps you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as possible while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
It’s fine if you want to keep driving even after developing hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss will make it difficult for your ears to differentiate sounds. When the wind is blowing and your passengers are speaking, it might become easy for your ears to get overstimulated, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to lower the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
- Keep your phone out of reach: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that doubles when you try to use them with hearing loss. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Keep an eye on your instrument panel: Typically, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. So periodically glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- 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.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you have hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where having a hearing aid can really come in handy. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to die. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s in working order.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you drive a lot. The size of the inside of your vehicle and the fact that your passengers will be speaking to you from the side or rear will be the variables we will use to optimize this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
- Wear your hearing aid every time you drive: It won’t help you if you don’t use it! So make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming sounds.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, particularly with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Developing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes remain safely on the road.