How Can Your Driving Habits be Impacted by Hearing Impairment?

Woman with dark hair wearing a hearing aid happily driver her car

Don’t take your eyes off the road. While this may be sound advice, what about your other senses? Your ears, for example, are doing tons of work when you’re driving, helping you keep track of other vehicles, alerting you to information on your dashboard, and keeping you engaged with the other individuals in your vehicle.

So when you experience hearing loss, how you drive can change. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to stop driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are much greater liabilities. That said, those with diminished hearing need to take some special safeguards to stay as safe as possible.

Developing 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 might be affecting your driving

Generally, driving is a vision-centric task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even complete hearing loss probably won’t keep you from driving, but it very likely could change how you drive. While driving you do use your hearing a great deal, after all. Here are some prevalent examples:

  • Even though many vehicles are engineered to reduce road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. For example, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
  • Your vehicle will often make audible noises and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
  • If has any damage, your sense of hearing can let you know. If your engine is rapping or you have an exhaust leak, for instance.
  • You can usually hear emergency vehicles before you can see them.
  • If another driver needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often beep their horn. For instance, if you start drifting into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can clue you in to your error before bad things happen.

All of these audio cues can help build your overall situational awareness. You could start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss advances. But you can take some positive measures to keep your driving as safe as possible.

Practicing new safe driving habits

It’s fine if you want to keep driving even after developing hearing loss! Here are some ways you can make sure to remain safe while driving:

  • Keep your phone stowed: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. One of the leading causes of distracted driving, nowadays, is cellphones. And with hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. Keeping your phone stashed can, simply, keep you safer–and save your life.
  • Don’t disregard your instrument panel: 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 will make it hard for your ears to separate sounds. It could 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 when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to reduce the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and put up your windows.
  • Check your mirrors more often: 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.

Keeping your hearing aid road ready

If you have hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where wearing a hearing aid can really come in handy. And when you’re driving, utilize these tips to make your hearing aids a real advantage:

  • Keep your hearing aids clean, charged, and updated: When you’re on your way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to die. That can distract you and could even bring about a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and ensure everything’s in working order.
  • Use your hearing aid each time you drive: If you don’t use it, it won’t help! So every time you drive, make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain acclimate to the signals your hearing aid sends your way.
  • Have us program a driving setting for you: If you intend to do 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 configuration of your vehicle (where, normally, 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 a problem, particularly with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Establishing good driving habits can help ensure that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes remain safely on the road.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.