Hearing loss is a common ailment that older individuals must deal with, but should it be why they stop driving? There is no real answer since few people drive exactly the same way.
A loss of hearing is definitely something worth considering when getting behind the wheel of your car, but a safe driver isn’t going to change just because they notice mild hearing loss. People who were bad drivers before their hearing challenge are probably still bad drivers.
What should you do if you are experiencing hearing loss and still want to drive to work each day or take a car trip this summer? Is it safe even though you don’t hear as well?
Think Beyond the Wheel
If you do notice hearing loss, chances are it won’t really affect your driving…not right away, at least. That day may be coming, though, especially if you don’t do something to stop the decline.
Johns Hopkins Medicine reports there is a direct connection between ear health and brain health. Fighting to hear changes the way the brain uses valuable resources. It’s a struggle to understand words, for instance. This is likely a contributing factor to brain atrophy, which means dementia. A person suffering with dementia certainly can’t drive.
What About Driving?
Driving requires keen observational skills and some of that does relate to hearing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t drive with hearing loss. The Center for Hearing and Communication estimates about 48 million Americans have significant hearing loss and a good portion of them do still drive.
At least one study found that people behind the wheel that do have hearing loss tend to be more visually observant and, generally, drive more cautiously. They drive slower in traffic and use their mirrors more to make up for what they may not hear.
Tips for Driving With Hearing Loss
The first tip is to stop procrastinating. See a doctor, get a hearing test and consider how hearing aids can change things for you. Hearing aids can help eliminate the “should I be driving with hearing loss” question.
Even with hearing aids, you will still need to be a more observant driver, which brings us to tip number two – get your eyesight checked. Let’s face it when it comes to driving, vision is the sense that matters most, so make sure yours is up to snuff. Ask the doctor to check your night vision, too, just to be safe. If you don’t hear well, you need to be extra cautious about visual acuity.
Keep the noise down inside the car. This will allow you to focus what hearing you do have on the road without distractions. Turn the radio off and ask your passengers to keep the chatter to a minimum.
Learn to check your dashboard often. It’s the little things that will add up when you drive with hearing loss. For example, you will no longer hear that clicking noise that tells you that your turn signal is on. You will have to rely on your eyes to pick up the slack, so get in the habit of checking to see what your car is trying to tell you.
Make maintenance a priority. You’re not going to hear that rattling noise under the hood anymore or the warning bell telling you there is a problem with your engine or another critical component. That is a major safety hazard, so make a point of having your car serviced routinely. That’s a good idea for most people but a necessity if you are driving with hearing loss.
Watch the other cars closely. Of course, you would do that anyway, but you want to look for signs you might be missing something. You may not hear emergency sirens, for instance, so if the cars pulling over to the side, you should too. Look to see how other drivers are responding to their surroundings to get clues on what you might not be hearing.
Can you drive with hearing loss? That’s up to you. It is possible to be a good driver even if your hearing is not what it used to be because odds are your other senses will help you make the adjustment. If the idea makes you nervous, though, then it’s time to see an ear specialist and find a solution to improve your situation like wearing hearing aids.