Keep your eyes on the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. As an example, consider 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 appearing on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So how you drive can change if you’re going through hearing impairment. That’s not to say your driving will become prohibitively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are greater liabilities when it comes to safety. That said, those with diminished hearing need to take some specific precautions to stay as safe as possible.
Establishing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing impairment might be affecting your situational awareness.
How hearing loss might be impacting 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 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 prevalent examples:
- You can often hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
- Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often use their horn. For example, if you start drifting into another lane or you remain stopped at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your mistake before bad things happen.
- If has any damage, your sense of hearing can alert you to it. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have better awareness of other vehicles around you. You will usually be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
All of these audio cues can help build your total situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, 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 continue to drive, that’s okay! 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 be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: It will be hard for your ears to isolate noises when you’re going through hearing loss. When the wind is blowing and your passengers are speaking, it may become easy for your ears to get overwhelmed, which can cause fatigue and distraction. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep conversations to a minimum when driving.
- Keep your phone stowed: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still smart advice. Today, one of the leading causes of distraction is a cellphone. And that doubles when you attempt to use them with hearing loss. Keeping your phone stowed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
- Keep an eye on your instrument panel: Typically, 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.
How to keep your hearing aid driving ready
If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those scenarios where having a hearing aid can really come in handy. And there are a few ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re driving:
- Each time you drive, use your hearing aid: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So be sure you’re using your hearing aids every time you drive. This will also help your brain get used to the sounds your hearing aid sends your way.
- 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 be distracting and perhaps even dangerous. So make sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: 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 inside space and setup of your vehicle (where, usually, your passenger is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more pleasant.
Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is a problem, particularly with hearing aids which make it safer and easier. Developing safer driving habits can help ensure that your drive is pleasant and that your eyes remain safely on the road.