Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this may be sound advice, how about your other senses? Your ears, for instance, are doing tons of work while you’re driving, helping you keep track of other vehicles, alerting you to info on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other people in your vehicle.
So the way you drive can change if you’re going through hearing loss. That’s not to say your driving will come to be prohibitively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are greater liabilities in terms of safety. That being said, those with decreased hearing should take some specific safeguards to stay as safe as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but formulating good driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.
How hearing loss might be affecting your driving
Vision is the primary sense utilized when driving. 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. Here are some prevalent examples:
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car is damaged in some way. For example, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often beep their horn. For instance, if you start drifting into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your error before dangerous things take place.
- Your vehicle will often} make audible sounds and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for example).
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles near you. For instance, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
By utilizing 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.
Developing new safe driving habits
It’s no problem if you want to continue driving even after developing hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- 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 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. When the wind is howling and your passengers are speaking, it could become easy for your ears to grow overstimulated, 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 good, this one is still good advice. One of the leading reasons for distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And that doubles 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.
- Keep an eye on your instrument panel: Normally, when you need to pay 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 confirm your turn signals aren’t still on, or your check engine light isn’t on.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you have hearing loss, a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a lot of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be calibrated for the inside space and configuration of your vehicle (where, normally, your conversation partner is beside and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more enjoyable.
- Use your hearing aid every time you drive: If you don’t wear it, it can’t help! So be sure you’re using your hearing aids each time you drive. 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 charged and clean: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to die. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So make sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, especially with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.