Keep your eyes on the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. As an example, think about how much work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other individuals in your vehicle, call your attention to important information coming up on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So the way you drive can change if you’re experiencing hearing loss. That doesn’t inevitably mean you will have to stop driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far greater liabilities. That said, those with declining hearing should take some special safeguards to remain as safe as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing loss may be affecting your situational awareness.
How hearing loss might be affecting your driving
Vision is the main sense used when driving. Even if you have total hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still probably be able to drive. After all, you use your hearing a great deal while you’re driving. Here are some typical examples:
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is attempting to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Other motorists will often honk their horns to alert you to their presence. For example, if you start drifting into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your error before dangerous things happen.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. If your motor is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles around you. You will usually be able to hear an oncoming truck, for instance.
All of these audio cues can help build your overall situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you may miss more and more of these cues. But there are measures you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as you can while driving.
Practicing new safe driving habits
It’s no problem if you want to keep driving even after you have hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:
- Minimize in-car noises: Hearing loss is going to make it difficult for your ears to separate sounds. When the wind is blowing and your passengers are talking, it could become easy for your ears to get overstimulated, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So roll up your window, turn down the volume, and keep conversations to a minimum while driving.
- Put away your phone: Well, this is wise advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. Phones are among the highest causes of distraction on the road today. And with 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.
- Keep an eye on your dash lights.: Usually, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for something. 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 your check engine light isn’t on.
- Pay extra attention to your mirrors: 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.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where wearing a hearing aid can really help. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- 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 want is for your battery to die. That can distract you and may even bring about a dangerous situation. So make certain everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Use your hearing aid every time you drive: If you don’t wear it, it won’t help! So make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids each time you get behind the wheel. By doing this, your brain will have an easier time acclimating to the incoming sounds.
- Ask us for a “driving” setting: If you intend to do a lot of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be calibrated for the interior space and configuration of your vehicle (where, usually, your conversation partner is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive easier and more pleasant.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, especially with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Establishing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes remain safely on the road.