Keep your eyes on the road. While this may be sound advice, how about your other senses? Your ears, for example, are doing a ton of work while you’re driving, helping you keep track of other vehicles, calling your attention to info on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other people in your vehicle.
So how you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing impairment. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will need to stop driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. Still, some specific safeguards should be taken by individuals 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 impairment might be affecting your situational awareness.
How your driving might be impacted by hearing loss
Vision is the main sense used when driving. Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving may change but you will still probably be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Here are some prevalent examples:
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can let you know. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often beep their horn. For instance, if you start drifting into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your error before bad things happen.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles near you. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
By using all of these audio cues, you will be building stronger situational awareness. You could start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But you can take some positive measures to keep your driving as safe as possible.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s okay! Here are a few ways you can be certain to stay safe when out on the road:
- Put away your phone: Well, this is wise advice whether you have hearing loss or not. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road these days. And that goes double 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: Normally, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and make sure your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or you don’t have a check engine light on.
- Check your mirrors more often: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss is going to make it hard for your ears to differentiate noises. When the wind is howling and your passengers are speaking, it could become easy for your ears to get overstimulated, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So roll up your window, turn down the volume, and keep conversations to a minimum while driving.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
Driving is one of those activities that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really be helpful. And there are a few ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: When you’re on your way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to die. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So make sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you anticipate doing a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be calibrated for the inside space and configuration of your vehicle (where, normally, your conversation partner is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
- Use your hearing aid each time you drive: It’s not going to help you if you don’t wear it! So each time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain acclimate to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, particularly with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Establishing safer driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes remain safely on the road.