For many older people, driving is one of the best ways to stay independent. However, if you suffer from hearing loss you could also be putting yourself or others unnecessarily at risk when driving. If you suffer from hearing loss but you don’t want to give up your ability to drive, make sure you take some of the following considerations and solutions into account.
Why is Hearing Important for Driving?
Though it might seem like we don’t use our ears much while we drive, in truth there are many ways your hearing affects your driving. For instance:
- Modern cars use sounds to alert the driver of problems or warnings, such as an open door, unfastened seatbelt or a problem with the engine.
- Emergency vehicles use sirens and horns to signal their presence to other vehicles on the road.
- Other cars may honk their horns as a warning or a signal to other drivers.
- We use our ears to monitor the general operation of the car, such as the click of the turn signal or the sound of the engine, brakes, and tires.
If you aren’t able to hear well, you could miss some or all of the above signals. This could lead to dangerous situations for yourself and others. You could accidentally block an ambulance or police car in your lane, or you could miss an important signal from your car such as squealing brakes or an open door alarm. You might even just leave your turn signal on, which could confuse other drivers.
Tips for Dealing with Hearing Loss while Driving
It can be challenging to drive well when you suffer from hearing loss. That said, there are some things you can do to minimize the impact of your hearing loss and make yourself a safer driver.
The single biggest thing you can do to be a safer driver is to reduce the number of distractions you have when driving. All drivers should focus on the road, but it’s especially important to stay focused when driving with hearing loss. That means avoiding common driving distractions like:
- Using your phone.
- Taking your eyes off the road to use the air conditioner, heater, or other controls.
- Eating or drinking.
In addition, you need to take extra care to avoid distractions that affect your ability to hear what is going on around you and your car. This can include:
- Talking to other people in the car with you.
- Using your phone on speakerphone or through your car’s speakers.
- Listening to the radio at loud volumes.
Use Your Vision Effectively
When your hearing ability is reduced, you need to use your other senses to compensate. Good sight is important for every driver, but it’s a must-have for drivers suffering from hearing loss. You need to use your vision well and do what you can to amplify it to keep yourself safe. This can include:
- Buying an extended rear view mirror – these wider mirrors make it easier to see into your car’s blind spots, which can help you avoid dangerous merges or see flashing lights behind your car.
- Keeping your windshield and windows clean.
- Keeping your attention focused and your eyes on the road.
Use Hearing Aids to Improve Your Hearing Performance
Along with the above tips and strategies, one of the best things you can do to become a safer driver is purchase and use hearing aids. Hearing aids will make it easier to focus on sounds that matter on the road such as horns, sirens, and warning signals from your car.
If you already have hearing aids, make sure you take these additional precautions when driving:
- Keep a spare set of batteries with you at all times so your hearing aids don’t quit while you’re on the road. If your batteries do die while you’re driving, stop in a safe place to change them.
- Make sure you wear your hearing aids at all times when driving. Some people find the increased levels of background noise distracting while driving, but if you continue wearing your hearing aids your brain will learn to filter out unnecessary sounds.
- Get your hearing assessed regularly. It’s important to make sure your hearing aids are functioning properly and compensating for your hearing loss. An audiologist can help you make adjustments to your hearing aids to ensure they are working their best.
Get the Hearing Help You Need
If you’re concerned about your ability to hear on the road, contact the Oklahoma Hearing Center today at one of our 6 locations. Our audiologists are ready to help you assess and regain your hearing to become a safer, more attentive driver. Call our offices today at (405) 546-4280 or visit us on Facebook to get more hearing tips.