Don’t take your eyes off the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to 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 engaged with the other people in your vehicle.
So the way you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will come to be prohibitively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are larger liabilities in terms of safety. That being said, those with diminished hearing need to take some specific safeguards to remain as safe as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing impairment may be affecting your situational awareness.
How hearing loss may be affecting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centered activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even complete hearing loss most likely won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely could change the way you drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. 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 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 vehicle will often make audible sounds and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles around you. You will usually be able to hear an oncoming truck, for instance.
- Emergency vehicles can usually be heard before they can be seen.
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can let you know. If your engine is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for instance.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be building stronger situational awareness. As your hearing loss gets worse, you may miss more and more of these cues. 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 dealing with hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s fine! Here are some ways you can make sure to remain safe when out on the road:
- Check your mirrors more often: 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.
- Keep your phone out of reach: Well, this is good advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. 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 dash lights.: Typically, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So periodically look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: Hearing loss is going to make it hard for your ears to differentiate noises. It will be easy for your ears to become overstimulated 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 good idea to lower the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and put up your windows.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those instances where wearing 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:
- Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to die right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can distract you and could even lead to a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s in working order.
- Every time you drive, use your hearing aid: If you don’t wear it, it won’t help! So make sure you’re using your hearing aids each time you get behind the wheel. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming sounds.
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a lot 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 setup of your vehicle (where, usually, your passenger is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more pleasant.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, particularly with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Developing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes remain safely on the road.