Don’t take your eyes off the road. Of course, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. As an example, consider the amount of work your ears are doing when you’re driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other people 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 loss. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are greater liabilities when it comes to safety. That said, those with decreased hearing should take some specific safeguards to stay as safe as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing loss might be influencing your situational awareness.
How your driving could be impacted by hearing loss
Vision is the primary sense utilized when driving. Even complete hearing loss probably won’t keep you from driving, but it very likely might change the way you drive. After all, you use your hearing quite a bit while you’re driving. Some prevalent examples include:
- Even though many vehicles are engineered to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- Other drivers will commonly honk their horns to make you aware of their presence. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for instance, or you begin to drift into the other lane, a horn can get your attention before it becomes a problem.
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can let you know. If your motor is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for instance.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is attempting to alert you to something, like 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 build your overall situational awareness. As your hearing loss gets worse, you may miss more and more of these cues. But you can take some positive measures to keep your driving as safe as possible.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s okay! Here are a few ways you can be certain to stay safe when out on the road:
- Keep your phone stowed: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road today. And that goes double when you try to use them with hearing loss. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t ignore your dash lights: Normally, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still on, or your check engine light isn’t on.
- 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.
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: It will be challenging for your ears to distinguish noises when you have hearing loss. It could be easy for your ears to get overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind blowing in your ears. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to lower the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and roll up your windows.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
Driving is one of those activities that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really be helpful. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you want 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.
- Use your hearing aid each time you drive: It’s not going to help you if you don’t wear it! So make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you drive. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time getting used to the incoming sounds.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you do a lot of driving. This setting will be adjusted for the interior space and configuration of your vehicle (where, normally, your conversation partner is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more pleasant.
Plenty of individuals with hearing loss keep driving and hearing aids make the process easier and safer. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.