Keep your eyes on the road. Naturally, 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 information coming up on your dashboard, and help you track other vehicles.
So how you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will come to be excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. That being said, those with decreased hearing need to take some specific safeguards to remain as safe as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you drive safely even if hearing loss might be influencing your situational awareness.
How hearing loss may be affecting your driving
In general, driving is a vision-centered task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something has gone wrong). Even if you have complete hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still likely be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing a great deal while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
- Other drivers will often use 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 alert you before it becomes an issue.
- Even though many vehicles are designed to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can let you know. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
All of these audio cues can help build your overall situational awareness. As your hearing loss progresses, you might be missing more and more of these cues. But there are steps you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as you can while driving.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to keep driving, that’s okay! Here are some ways you can make sure to remain safe while driving:
- Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: It will be hard for your ears to distinguish noises when you have hearing loss. It will be easy for your ears to get overwhelmed and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind blowing in your ears. So roll up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum while driving.
- Keep your phone out of reach: Well, this is wise advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. Today, one of the leading causes of distraction is a cellphone. 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: Typically, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So you’ll want to make sure you glance down (when it’s safe) and make sure your turn signals aren’t still on, or you don’t have a check engine light on.
- 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 be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where having a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you anticipate doing a lot of driving, you can ask us to give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be calibrated for the interior space and setup of your vehicle (where, normally, your passenger is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
- Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid charged and clean: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So be sure everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Wear your hearing aid every time you drive: It won’t help you if you don’t use it! So make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you get behind the wheel. This will also help your brain acclimate to the sounds your hearing aid sends into your ears.
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 stay focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.