Keep your eyes on the road. While this may be sound advice, what about your other senses? Your ears, for instance, are doing a ton of work while you’re driving, helping you track other vehicles, calling your attention to info on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other passengers in your vehicle.
So the way you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing loss. That doesn’t automatically mean you will have to stop driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. That being said, those with declining hearing should take some special safeguards to stay as safe as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing impairment may be influencing your situational awareness.
How your driving might be impacted by hearing loss
Vision is the main sense used when driving. Even full-blown hearing loss most likely won’t keep you from driving, but it very likely could change how you drive. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Here are some prevalent examples:
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles near you. For instance, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For instance, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Other motorists will commonly honk their horns to alert you to their presence. If you fail to see the light turn to green, for instance, or you begin to drift into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes an issue.
All of these audio cues can help build your total 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 still remain as safe as you can while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s okay! Here are a few ways you can be certain to stay safe while driving:
- Put away your phone: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road today. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. You will simply be safer when you put away your phone and it could save your life.
- Keep an eye on your instrument panel: Typically, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So periodically glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be hard for your ears to distinguish noises when you have hearing loss. When the wind is howling and your passenger is talking, it could become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So roll up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum while driving.
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
Driving is one of those activities that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And there are several ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Wear your hearing aid every time you drive: It’s not going to help you if you don’t use it! So be sure you’re wearing your hearing aids each time you drive. This will also help your brain get used to the sounds your hearing aid sends into your ears.
- 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 distract you and could even lead to a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s working properly.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: 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 interior 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 smoother safer driving.
Lots of people with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Developing safer driving habits can help ensure that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes stay safely on the road.