Don’t take your eyes off the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. For example, consider the amount of work your ears are doing when you’re driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other individuals in your vehicle, call your attention to important information appearing on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So when you’re coping with hearing loss, the way you drive can change. That’s not to say your driving will become excessively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are bigger liabilities in terms of safety. Still, some specific safeguards need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but acquiring safe driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How hearing loss may be impacting your driving
Vision is the main sense utilized when driving. Even full-blown hearing loss probably won’t keep you from driving, but it very likely might change the way you drive. While driving you do use your hearing a great deal, after all. Here are some prevalent examples:
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
- Other motorists will commonly use their horns to alert you to their presence. For example, if you start drifting into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your error before bad things happen.
- 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.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles around you. For instance, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is attempting to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
All of these audio cues can help develop your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss gets worse, 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! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- 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 be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: It will be challenging for your ears to distinguish noises when you’re going through hearing loss. It will be easy for your ears to get overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly speaking and music playing and wind blowing in your ears. So roll up your window, turn down the music, and keep conversations to a minimum when driving.
- Put away your phone: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still good advice. Phones are among the highest causes of distraction on the road today. And that goes double when you try to use them when you have hearing loss. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t disregard your instrument panel: Typically, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So regularly look down to see if any dash lights are on.
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 come in handy. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you anticipate doing a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to give you 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 factors we will use to optimize this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
- Each time you drive, wear your hearing aid: It’s not going to help you if you don’t wear it! So every time you drive, be sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain get used to the sounds your hearing aid sends into your ears.
- 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 be distracting and possibly even dangerous. So make certain everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, particularly with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Establishing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes stay safely on the road.