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. While this might be sound advice, how about your other senses? As an example, think about how much work your ears are doing when you’re driving. You’re using your ears to connect with other people in your vehicle, call your attention to important information coming up 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. Distracted driving and inexperience are larger liabilities in terms of safety. Still, some special precautions need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.

Hearing loss can impact your situational awareness but acquiring safe driving habits can help you stay safe while driving.

How your driving might be effected by hearing loss

In general, driving is a vision-centered task (at least, if it’s not a vision-centric activity, something’s wrong). Even full-blown hearing loss most likely 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:

  • Your hearing will often alert you when your car is damaged in some way. For example, if you run over something in the road or a rock hits your windshield.
  • Your vehicle will sometimes make audible noises and alerts in order to make you aware of something (turn signals or unbuckled seat belts, for instance).
  • Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
  • Other drivers will commonly honk their horns to make you aware of their presence. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for instance, or you start to wander into the other lane, a horn can alert you before it becomes a problem.
  • Even though many vehicles are engineered to decrease road noise, your sense of hearing can raise your awareness of other vehicles. For instance, you will usually be able to hear a large truck coming toward you.

By using all of these audio cues, you will be developing better situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you may miss more and more of these cues. But you can practice 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 you have hearing loss! Stay safe out on the road with these tips:

  • Minimize in-car noises: It will be difficult for your ears to distinguish noises when you have hearing loss. It will be easy for your ears to become overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind in your ears. So roll up your window, turn down the volume, and keep conversations to a minimum when driving.
  • Check your mirrors more often: Even with sirens blaring, you may not hear that ambulance coming up behind you. So make sure you aren’t neglecting your mirrors. And generally try to keep an elevated awareness for emergency vehicles.
  • Keep your phone out of reach: Even if your hearing is good, this one is still good advice. Phones are among the leading causes of distraction on the road these days. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. 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 regularly look down to see if any dash lights are on.

Keeping your hearing aid road ready

If you suffer from hearing loss, driving is one of those situations where wearing a hearing aid can really come in handy. And there are a few ways you can make sure your hearing aid is a real asset when you’re driving:

  • Have us dial in a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a lot of driving, you can ask us to program a “car” setting on your hearing aid. The size of the interior of your vehicle and the fact that your passengers will be talking to you from the side or rear will be the factors we will use to optimize this “car setting” for smoother safer driving.
  • Get the most recent updates and keep your hearing aid charged and clean: You don’t want your hearing aid batteries to quit right in the middle of a drive to the store. That can distract you and might even create a dangerous situation. So keep your batteries charged and make sure everything’s working properly.
  • Every time you drive, wear your hearing aid: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So every time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain get used to the signals your hearing aid sends into your ears.

Lots of people with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Your drive will be pleasant and your eyes will remain focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.

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.