Keep your eyes on the road. While this may be sound advice, what about your other senses? As an example, think about how much work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other individuals in your vehicle, call your attention to important information appearing on your dashboard, and help you track other vehicles.
So how you drive can change if you’re going through hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much greater liabilities. That said, those with declining hearing need to take some specific precautions to remain as safe as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing loss might be affecting your situational awareness.
How hearing loss may be affecting your driving
Vision is the principal sense used when driving. Even complete hearing loss probably won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely could change the way you drive. While driving you do utilize your hearing a great deal, after all. Here are some typical examples:
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is trying to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Other motorists will often use their horns to alert you to their presence. 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 mistake before dangerous things happen.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. For example, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- Even though many vehicles are designed to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. You will usually be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
All of these audio cues can help build your total situational awareness. You could begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss progresses. 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 fine! Here are a few ways you can be certain to stay safe when out on the road:
- Put your phone away: Well, this is wise advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road these days. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t ignore your dash lights: Typically, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm 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 generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: It will be challenging for your ears to distinguish noises when you have hearing loss. When the wind is howling and your passenger is talking, it might become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So when you’re driving, it’s a smart idea to decrease the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those scenarios where having a hearing aid can really come in handy. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to quit. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So make sure 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 drive a lot. 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.
- Use your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t wear it, it can’t help! So make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids each time you get behind the wheel. This will also help your brain acclimate to the sounds your hearing aid sends your way.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, particularly with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Establishing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes stay safely on the road.