Keep your eyes on the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. As an example, consider how much 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 track other vehicles.
So how you drive can change if you’re going through hearing impairment. That doesn’t inevitably mean you will need to quit driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are larger liabilities when it comes to safety. Still, some special safeguards need to be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing loss may be influencing your situational awareness.
How your driving may be effected 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 likely be able to drive. While driving you do use your hearing a great deal, after all. Some prevalent examples include:
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
- Other drivers will commonly use their horns to alert you to their presence. For example, if you start drifting into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your mistake before bad things take place.
- Even though most vehicles are engineered to reduce road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. For instance, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. If your motor is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
All of these audio cues can help build your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you might be missing more and more of these cues. But you can take some positive measures to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Developing new safe driving habits
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s okay! Here are a few ways you can make sure to stay 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.
- Keep your phone stowed: Well, this is wise advice whether you have 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. 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 ding or make some other sound. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and make sure your turn signals aren’t still on, or you don’t have a check engine light on.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss is going to make it hard for your ears to separate sounds. It will be easy for your ears to get overwhelmed and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly speaking and music playing and wind blowing in your ears. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum when driving.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
If you have hearing loss, driving is one of those scenarios where wearing a hearing aid can really help. And there are a few ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re driving:
- 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 die. That can distract you and may even create a dangerous situation. So make certain everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you anticipate doing a fair amount 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 optimize this “car setting” for smoother safer driving.
- Wear your hearing aid every time you drive: If you don’t wear it, it won’t help! So each time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming sounds.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, especially with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you develop safe driving habits.