Keep your eyes on the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. Your ears, for example, are doing tons of work while you’re driving, helping you monitor other vehicles, calling your attention to info on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other individuals in your vehicle.
So when you’re coping with hearing impairment, how you drive can vary. That doesn’t inevitably mean you will need to stop driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. With regards to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. That said, those with decreased hearing should take some specific safeguards to stay as safe as possible.
Hearing loss can affect your situational awareness but developing safe driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.
How hearing loss could be impacting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centric activity (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even if you have complete hearing loss, your driving may change but you will still probably be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing a great deal while you’re driving. Some prevalent examples include:
- If another motorist needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often use their horn. For example, if you begin to drift into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your error before bad things take place.
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is trying to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
- Even though most vehicles are designed to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
- Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For instance, if you run over an obstruction in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
All of these audio cues can help develop your overall situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you may miss more and more of these cues. But you can practice some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
Developing new safe driving habits
It’s no problem if you want to continue driving even after you have hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: It will be difficult for your ears to isolate noises when you have hearing loss. When the wind is howling and your passengers are talking, it could become easy for your ears to grow overwhelmed, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So when you’re driving, it’s a smart idea to reduce the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and put up your windows.
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: You may not be able to hear an ambulance pull up behind you–even with all those sirens going. So make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
- Keep your phone stowed: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t neglect your instrument panel: Normally, your car will ding or beep when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So periodically look down to see if any dash lights are on.
Keeping your hearing aid ready for the road
Driving is one of those tasks that, if you are dealing with 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:
- Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: It won’t help you if you don’t wear it! So be sure you’re using your hearing aids each time you get behind the wheel. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming signals.
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you do a lot of driving. This setting will be calibrated for the interior space and setup of your vehicle (where, usually, your passenger is beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more pleasant.
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: 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 in good working order and the batteries are charged.
Lots of people with hearing loss keep driving 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 develop safe driving habits.