Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this might be sound advice, how about your other senses? Your ears, for instance, are doing a lot of work while you’re driving, helping you monitor other vehicles, alerting you to information on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other passengers in your vehicle.
So when you’re coping with hearing impairment, the way you drive can vary. That doesn’t automatically mean you will need to quit driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are larger liabilities when it comes to safety. That being said, those with decreased hearing need to take some specific safeguards to stay as safe as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but developing good driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How your driving could be effected by hearing loss
Vision is the primary sense utilized when driving. Even total hearing loss probably won’t keep 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 prevalent examples:
- Other drivers will often use their horns to alert you to their presence. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for example, or you begin to wander into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes a problem.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is trying to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles near you. For instance, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
By utilizing all of these audio cues, you will be developing better situational awareness. You may begin to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But there are steps you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as possible while driving.
Practicing new safe driving habits
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s okay! Here are a few ways you can be certain to stay safe when out on the road:
- Put away your phone: Well, this is wise advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that doubles when you attempt to use them when you have hearing loss. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t neglect your instrument panel: usually, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So periodically look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: 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 interior noise to a minimum: It will be hard for your ears to isolate sounds when you’re going through hearing loss. It will be easy for your ears to get overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind in your ears. So when you’re driving, it’s a smart idea to lower the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and put up your windows.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
Driving is one of those activities that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really be helpful. 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, updated, and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to quit. That can distract you and may even lead to a dangerous situation. So make sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: If you don’t wear it, it can’t help! So make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids each time you get behind the wheel. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming signals.
- Have us program a driving setting for you: If you intend to do a lot of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. The size of the inside 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 fine tune this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, particularly with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Developing safer driving habits can help guarantee that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes stay safely on the road.