Keep your eyes on the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. For example, consider how much work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other individuals in your vehicle, alert you to important information appearing on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So the way you drive can change if you’re going through hearing loss. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are greater liabilities in terms of safety. That said, those with decreased hearing need to take some specific safeguards to remain as safe as possible.
Establishing 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 activity (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 probably be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Some prevalent examples include:
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles around you. You will typically be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
- If there is any damage to your vehicle, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. If your engine is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for instance.
- Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to alert you to something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
- Other motorists will often use their horns to make you aware of their presence. For instance, if you start drifting into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your error before dangerous things take place.
By using all of these audio cues, you will be developing stronger situational awareness. As your hearing loss progresses, 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.
Practicing new safe driving habits
It’s fine if you want to continue driving even after you have hearing loss! Here are some ways you can make sure to remain safe when out on the road:
- Keep your phone out of reach: Well, this is wise advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. One of the leading reasons for distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. 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 disregard your dash lights: Usually, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. So regularly glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: It will be challenging for your ears to isolate noises when you’re going through hearing loss. When the wind is howling and your passenger is speaking, it could become easy for your ears to get overstimulated, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So when you’re driving, it’s a smart idea to lower the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
- Check your mirrors more often: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you have hearing loss, driving is one of those instances where having a hearing aid can really help. And there are several ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to quit. That can distract you and may even bring about a dangerous situation. So make sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you do a lot of driving. The size of the interior 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 fine tune this “car setting” for smoother safer driving.
- Each time you drive, wear your hearing aid: It won’t help you if you don’t wear it! So make sure you’re using your hearing aids each time you get behind the wheel. This will also help your brain acclimate to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
Lots of people with hearing loss keep driving and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.