How Can Hearing Loss Affect Driving Habits?

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

Keep your eyes on the road. Naturally, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. As an example, think about the amount of work your ears are doing when you’re driving. You’re using your ears to engage with other individuals in your vehicle, alert you to important info coming up on your dashboard, and help you track other vehicles.

So how you drive can change if you’re going through hearing impairment. That doesn’t inevitably mean you will need to quit driving because you’ve become overly dangerous. Distracted driving and inexperience are bigger liabilities when it comes to safety. Still, some specific precautions need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.

Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing loss may be influencing your situational awareness.

How your driving could be impacted by hearing loss

In general, driving is a vision-centric 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 car is attempting to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
  • Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
  • Other motorists will often honk their horns to make you aware of their presence. For example, if you start drifting into another lane or you don’t go at a green light, a horn can make you aware of your error before dangerous things happen.
  • Even though many vehicles are designed to reduce road noise, your sense of hearing can add to your awareness of other vehicles. For instance, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.
  • Your hearing will usually alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. For example, if you run over an obstruction 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 gets worse, you may miss more and more of these cues. But there are steps you can take to ensure you stay as safe as you can while driving.

Practicing new safe driving habits

It’s fine if you want to keep driving even after developing hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:

  • Check your mirrors more often: You may not be able to hear an ambulance pull up behind you–even with all those sirens going. So make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
  • Keep your phone stowed: Well, this is wise advice whether you have hearing loss or not. Today, one of the leading reasons for distraction is a cellphone. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least twice as much. You will simply be safer when you put your phone away and it could save your life.
  • Keep an eye on your dash lights.: Normally, your car will beep or ding when you need to look at your instrument panel for some reason. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still on, or your check engine light isn’t on.
  • Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: Hearing loss will make it difficult for your ears to differentiate noises. When the wind is blowing and your passenger is speaking, it may become easy for your ears to grow overstimulated, which can cause you to become distracted and tired. So put up your window, turn down the music, and keep the talking to a minimum when driving.

How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving

If you are dealing with hearing loss, driving is one of those instances where wearing a hearing aid can really help. And there are a few ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re driving:

  • Have us dial in a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to give you a “car” setting on your hearing aid. This setting will be adjusted for the inside space and configuration of your vehicle (where, usually, your conversation partner is to your side and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more pleasant.
  • Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: When you’re on your way to the store, the last thing you need is for your battery to die. That can distract you and could even bring about a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s working properly.
  • Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: It’s not going to help you if you don’t wear it! So each time you drive, be sure you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain get used to the sounds your hearing aid sends your way.

Hearing loss doesn’t mean driving is an issue, especially with hearing aids which make it easier and safer. Developing safer driving habits can help guarantee that your drive is enjoyable and that your eyes stay 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.