Keep your eyes on the road. While this might be sound advice, how about your other senses? Your ears, for example, are doing a lot of work when 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 how you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will come to be excessively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are greater liabilities when it comes to safety. Nevertheless, some special precautions need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep 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 affecting your situational awareness.
How your driving could be effected by hearing loss
Vision is the primary sense used when driving. Even total hearing loss most likely won’t keep you from driving, but it very likely might change how you drive. While driving you do use your hearing a great deal, after all. Here are some typical examples:
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will usually beep their horn. For instance, if you begin to drift into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your mistake before dangerous things take place.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
- Even though many vehicles are designed to reduce road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can let you know. If your engine is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for instance.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is attempting to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be building better situational awareness. As your hearing loss progresses, you may miss more and more of these cues. But you can take some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
New safe driving habits to develop
It’s no problem if you want to continue driving even after developing hearing loss! Here are a few ways you can be certain to stay safe when out on the road:
- Keep your phone stowed: Well, this is good advice whether you have hearing loss or not. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road today. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and 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 look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- 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.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss is going to make it hard for your ears to separate sounds. It could be easy for your ears to become overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind in your ears. So put up your window, turn down the volume, and keep conversations to a minimum when driving.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really be helpful. And there are several 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: 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 maybe even dangerous. So be sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
- Each time you drive, use your hearing aid: If you don’t wear it, it won’t help! So be sure you’re wearing your hearing aids each time you get behind the wheel. This will also help your brain acclimate to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: If you intend to do a lot of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be adjusted for the inside space and setup of your vehicle (where, usually, your conversation partner is beside and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more enjoyable.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, particularly with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.