Keep your eyes on the road. Of course, 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 info on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other individuals in your vehicle.
So when you’re coping with hearing impairment, how you drive can vary. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are larger liabilities when it comes to safety. Nevertheless, some specific precautions need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing impairment may be influencing your situational awareness.
How your driving could be effected by hearing loss
Vision is the primary sense utilized when driving. Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving may change but you will still likely be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing a lot while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. If your engine is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for instance.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is attempting to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
- Even though most vehicles are engineered to reduce road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. You will usually be able to hear an oncoming truck, for instance.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will usually beep their horn. 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.
All of these audio cues can help build your total situational awareness. You could start 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.
Practicing new safe driving habits
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s fine! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- Minimize in-car noises: It will be difficult for your ears to isolate sounds when you have hearing loss. It could be easy for your ears to get overwhelmed and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind in your ears. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep conversations to a minimum while driving.
- Keep your phone out of reach: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still smart advice. One of the leading reasons for distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. 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 instrument panel: Normally, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So periodically glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- 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.
Keeping your hearing aid road ready
If you are dealing with 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 asset:
- Have us program a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be adjusted for the interior space and configuration of your vehicle (where, usually, your conversation partner is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
- Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: It’s not going to help you if you don’t use it! So every time you drive, make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming signals.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: When you’re on your way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to die. That can distract you and may even lead to a dangerous situation. So be sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
Lots of individuals with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Establishing safer driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes stay safely on the road.