Keep your eyes on the road. While this might be sound advice, what about your other senses? As an example, think about the amount of work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to connect with other individuals in your vehicle, call your attention to important info appearing on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So when you experience hearing impairment, how you drive can vary. That’s not to say your driving will come to be excessively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are larger liabilities in terms of safety. That being said, those with declining hearing need to take some specific safeguards to stay as safe as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing loss may be influencing your situational awareness.
How hearing loss might be affecting your driving
Vision is the main sense utilized when driving. Even full-blown hearing loss most likely won’t keep you from driving, but it very likely may change how you drive. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. For instance, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Other motorists will often use their horns to alert you to their presence. For instance, if you begin to drift into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your error before dangerous things happen.
- Even though many vehicles are engineered to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for instance.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car 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.
All of these audio cues can help develop your overall situational awareness. As your hearing loss progresses, you might be missing more and more of these cues. But you can take some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Practicing new safe driving habits
It’s fine if you want to continue driving even after you have hearing loss! Here are a few ways you can be certain to remain safe 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.
- Keep your phone out of reach: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road these days. And with hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. You will simply be safer when you put your phone away and it could save your life.
- Don’t ignore your dash lights: Typically, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. So periodically look down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: Hearing loss is going to make it difficult for your ears to separate sounds. When the wind is howling and your passenger is talking, it might become easy for your ears to get overstimulated, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So put up your window, turn down the volume, and keep conversations to a minimum when driving.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So make sure you’re using your hearing aids every time you get behind the wheel. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming sounds.
- 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 interior of your vehicle and the fact that your passengers will be talking to you from the side or rear will be the variables we will use to optimize this “car setting” for smoother safer driving.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid charged and clean: 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 ensure everything’s in working order.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, particularly with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Developing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes stay safely on the road.