Keep your eyes on the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. Your ears, for example, are doing a lot of work while you’re driving, helping you keep track of other vehicles, alerting you to information on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other people in your vehicle.
So when you experience hearing loss, the way you drive can change. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are greater liabilities in terms of safety. That being said, those with declining hearing need to take some specific safeguards to remain as safe as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but developing good driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How hearing loss may be impacting your driving
Generally, driving is a vision-centric task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even total 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 great deal while you’re driving. Here are some prevalent examples:
- Even though most vehicles are designed to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. For instance, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car is damaged in some way. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often beep their horn. 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 error before bad things take place.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is attempting to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be developing better 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 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 while driving:
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: It will be challenging for your ears to isolate sounds when you’re going through hearing loss. When the wind is blowing and your passenger is talking, it may become easy for your ears to grow overstimulated, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So roll up your window, turn down the music, and keep conversations 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 make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Put your phone away: Well, this is wise advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. Phones are among the highest causes of distraction on the road these days. And that doubles when you try to use them with hearing loss. You will simply be safer when you put away your phone and it could save your life.
- Keep an eye on your dash lights.: Normally, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So regularly glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
Driving is one of those activities that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- 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 variables we will use to optimize this “car setting” for smoother safer 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 be distracting and possibly even dangerous. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s working properly.
- Every 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 every time you get behind the wheel. This will also help your brain get used to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
Plenty of people with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.