Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this might be sound advice, what about your other senses? Your ears, for instance, are doing a lot of work when you’re driving, helping you keep track of other vehicles, calling your attention 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 experiencing hearing loss. That’s not to say your driving will become excessively dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are greater liabilities in terms of safety. Nevertheless, some specific safeguards need to be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing loss may be influencing your situational awareness.
How hearing loss could be affecting your driving
Generally, driving is a vision-centered task (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 likely be able to drive. While driving you do utilize your hearing a lot, after all. 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 often hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will usually beep their horn. For instance, if you begin to drift into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your mistake before dangerous things take place.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car is damaged in some way. If your engine is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
All of these audio cues can help develop your total situational awareness. You may start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But there are steps you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as possible while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s fine! Here are a few ways you can be certain to remain safe when out on the road:
- 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 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 good, this one is still smart advice. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you and other people safer–and save your life.
- Don’t neglect your dash lights: usually, when you need to pay attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. So regularly glance down to see if any dash lights are on.
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss is going to make it hard for your ears to differentiate sounds. When the wind is howling and your passenger is speaking, it might become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to decrease the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and put up your windows.
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 advantage:
- Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: It’s not going to help you if you don’t use it! So every time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain get used to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you intend to do a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. 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.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid clean and charged: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to die right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can be distracting and possibly even dangerous. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s working properly.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, especially with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Establishing good driving habits can help guarantee that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes stay safely on the road.