Don’t take your eyes off the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. For example, consider how much work your ears are doing when you’re driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other people in your vehicle, alert you to important information coming up on your dashboard, and help you track other vehicles.
So how you drive can change if you’re going through hearing loss. That’s not to say your driving will come to be prohibitively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. That being said, those with decreased hearing need to take some special safeguards to remain as safe as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing loss may be affecting your situational awareness.
How hearing loss may be affecting your driving
Generally, driving is a vision-centered task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still likely be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing a great deal while you’re driving. Some typical examples include:
- 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 example.
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
- Other motorists will often use their horns to alert you to their presence. If you fail to see the light turn to green, for example, or you begin to drift into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes an issue.
- Your vehicle will often make audible sounds and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
- 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 instance.
All of these audio cues can help develop your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you may miss more and more of these cues. But there are steps you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as possible while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
It’s fine if you want to keep driving even after you have hearing loss! Here are some ways you can be certain to remain safe while driving:
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: It will be difficult for your ears to isolate sounds when you’re going through hearing loss. When the wind is howling and your passenger is speaking, it might become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So put up your window, turn down the volume, and keep the talking to a minimum while driving.
- Keep your phone stowed: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. Phones are among the highest causes of distraction on the road today. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Keep an eye on your instrument panel: usually, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So you’ll want to make sure you glance down (when it’s safe) and make sure your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or your check engine light isn’t on.
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
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 help. And there are a few ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Use your hearing aid every time you drive: It won’t help you if you don’t use it! So each time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain get used to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: 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 configuration of your vehicle (where, normally, your conversation partner is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
- 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 could even lead to a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s working properly.
Lots of individuals with hearing loss continue to drive 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.