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 example, are doing tons of work when you’re driving, helping you monitor other vehicles, alerting you to information on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other people in your vehicle.
So how you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will become excessively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are bigger liabilities in terms of safety. Still, some specific precautions should be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but formulating safe driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How your driving may be impacted by hearing loss
In general, driving is a vision-centered task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even if you have complete hearing loss, your driving may change but you will still probably be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. Some prevalent examples include:
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is attempting to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often use their horn. 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 error before dangerous things happen.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles near you. You will usually be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. If your engine is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for instance.
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
By using 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 you can while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s okay! Here are some ways you can be certain to stay 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.
- Put away your phone: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that goes double when you attempt to use them when you have hearing loss. You will simply be safer when you put away your phone and it could save your life.
- Don’t neglect your dash lights: Typically, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. So regularly look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be difficult for your ears to isolate noises when you’re going through hearing loss. When the wind is blowing and your passengers are speaking, it may become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So roll up your window, turn down the music, and keep conversations to a minimum while driving.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you drive a lot. This setting will be adjusted for the interior space and setup of your vehicle (where, normally, your passenger is beside and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more enjoyable.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to quit. That can be distracting and maybe even dangerous. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s working properly.
- Use your hearing aid every time you drive: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So be sure you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming sounds.
Lots of individuals with hearing loss keep driving and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.