Keep your eyes on the road. While this may be sound advice, how about your other senses? Your ears, for instance, are doing tons of work while you’re driving, helping you keep track of other vehicles, calling your attention to info on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other passengers in your vehicle.
So how you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing loss. That doesn’t inevitably mean you will need to quit driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. That being said, those with diminished hearing need to take some special safeguards to remain as safe as possible.
Developing 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 might be impacting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centric task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving may 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:
- Other motorists will often honk their horns to make you aware of their presence. For instance, if you begin to drift into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your mistake before dangerous things take place.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For instance, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Your vehicle will often make audible sounds and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
- Even though most vehicles are engineered 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 toward you.
All of these audio cues can help develop your overall situational awareness. As your hearing loss progresses, you may miss more and more of these cues. But there are steps you can take to ensure you stay as safe as you can while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s okay! Here are some ways you can make sure to remain safe while driving:
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss will make it difficult for your ears to differentiate sounds. It will be easy for your ears to get overwhelmed and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly speaking and music playing and wind in your ears. So roll up your window, turn down the volume, and keep the talking to a minimum while driving.
- 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 be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Put your phone away: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still smart advice. Phones are among the highest causes of distraction on the road these days. And with hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Don’t ignore your dash lights: Normally, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. So periodically look down to see if any dash lights are on.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those instances where wearing a hearing aid can really come in handy. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to die. That can distract you and could even create a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s working properly.
- Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: If you don’t wear it, it won’t help! So be sure you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you drive. 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 give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be calibrated for the inside space and configuration of your vehicle (where, normally, your conversation partner is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more pleasant.
Plenty of people with hearing loss keep driving and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Establishing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes remain safely on the road.