Don’t take your eyes off the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. Your ears, for instance, are doing tons of work while you’re driving, helping you monitor other vehicles, calling your attention to information on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other passengers 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. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. That 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 formulating good driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How hearing loss could be affecting your driving
Vision is the main sense utilized when driving. Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still probably be able to drive. While driving you do use your hearing a great deal, after all. Here are some typical examples:
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can let you know. If your engine is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- Even though most vehicles are designed to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
- Other drivers will often use their horns to make you aware of their presence. 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 often hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
All of these audio cues can help develop your overall 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 experiencing hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s fine! Here are some ways you can be certain to remain safe while driving:
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Put away your phone: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still smart advice. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Keep an eye on your instrument panel: Normally, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So you’ll want to make sure you glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or your check engine light isn’t on.
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: It will be hard for your ears to distinguish sounds when you have hearing loss. When the wind is howling and your passenger is speaking, it could become easy for your ears to get overstimulated, 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 put up your windows.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where having a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Wear your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t wear it, it won’t help! So every time you drive, be sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming signals.
- 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 interior space and setup of your vehicle (where, usually, your passenger is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid charged and clean: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can distract you and may even lead to a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s working properly.
Plenty of people with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.