Don’t take your eyes off the road. Of course, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. Your ears, for instance, are doing tons of work while you’re driving, helping you monitor other vehicles, calling your attention to info on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other passengers in your vehicle.
So when you’re coping with hearing impairment, the way you drive can vary. That doesn’t inevitably mean you will need to stop driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much bigger liabilities. Still, some special safeguards 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 drive safely even if hearing impairment may be influencing your situational awareness.
How hearing loss might be impacting your driving
Generally, driving is a vision-centered activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even if you have complete 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 example, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is attempting to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Other motorists will commonly honk their horns to make you aware of their presence. For example, if you start drifting into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your mistake before bad things happen.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be building stronger situational awareness. You may begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But you can practice some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Practicing new safe driving habits
It’s fine if you want to keep driving even after developing hearing loss! Here are a few ways you can be certain to remain safe while driving:
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be challenging for your ears to distinguish noises when you have hearing loss. It will be easy for your ears to become overwhelmed and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly speaking and music playing and wind in your ears. So when you’re driving, it’s a smart idea to decrease the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and put up your windows.
- Put away your phone: Well, this is good advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road these days. And that goes double when you attempt to use them with hearing loss. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Don’t ignore your instrument panel: Usually, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. So you’ll want to make sure you 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 be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those instances where having a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So make certain everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Have us program a driving setting for you: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you do a lot of driving. The size of the interior of your vehicle and the fact that your passengers will be speaking to you from the side or rear will be the factors we will use to fine tune this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
- Each time you drive, wear your hearing aid: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So each time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming sounds.
Lots of individuals 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.