Don’t take your eyes off the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. As an example, consider the amount of work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other individuals in your vehicle, alert you to important info appearing on your dashboard, and help you track other vehicles.
So when you experience hearing loss, the way you drive can change. That’s not to say your driving will become excessively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are bigger liabilities when it comes to safety. Still, some special precautions should be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can impact your situational awareness but formulating safe driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How hearing loss may be impacting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centric task (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. While driving you do use your hearing a lot, after all. Here are some prevalent examples:
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles around you. For instance, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- Other drivers will often use their horns to alert you to their presence. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for example, or you start to wander into the other lane, a horn can alert you before it becomes a problem.
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can let you know. If your motor is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be building better situational awareness. You may begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But there are measures you can take to ensure you stay as safe as possible while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
It’s no problem if you want to keep driving even after developing hearing loss! Here are a few ways you can make sure to remain safe when out on the road:
- 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 generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Put your phone away: Well, this is wise advice whether you have hearing loss or not. Today, one of the leading reasons for distraction is a cellphone. And with hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Don’t neglect your dash lights: Usually, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So regularly glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: Hearing loss is going to make it hard for your ears to separate sounds. When the wind is blowing and your passenger is talking, it might become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So roll up your window, turn down the volume, and keep the talking to a minimum when driving.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
Driving is one of those activities that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And there are several ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Wear your hearing aid every time you drive: It won’t help you if you don’t wear it! So every time you drive, make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming sounds.
- 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 talking to you from the side or rear will be the factors we will use to optimize this “car setting” for smoother safer driving.
- 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 be distracting and maybe even dangerous. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s in working order.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, particularly with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Developing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes remain safely on the road.