Have you ever been behind the wheel of a car and suddenly heard a siren blaring in the distance or the honk of a car horn warning you of danger? Being able to hear sounds while driving is essential for safety. Unfortunately, for millions of people with hearing loss, driving can be a challenge.
As hearing professionals, we often get asked how hearing loss affects driving. Here we will discuss the impact of hearing loss on driving and strategies to drive safely with hearing loss.
Impact of Hearing Loss on Driving
Auditory cues play an essential role in driving. Sounds such as car horns, sirens, and even the sound of your engine help you stay aware of your surroundings. However, people with hearing loss may struggle to hear these sounds, leading to potentially dangerous situations.
For example, a person with hearing loss may not hear an ambulance siren and fail to pull over, delaying the ambulance’s response time. Similarly, they may not hear a car honking to warn them of danger or a warning signal from their own car, leading to an accident.
Furthermore, hearing loss can impact situational awareness while driving. Situational awareness refers to your ability to perceive and understand your surroundings. If you cannot hear sounds around you, you may miss important information about the traffic situation, such as the sound of a car approaching from behind.
Research on Hearing Loss and Driving
Several studies have shown that hearing loss can impact driving performance.
A study in the Gerontologist found that older adults with moderate-to-severe hearing loss had a significantly higher risk for unsafe driving performance, The results were consistent, even when adjusting for cognitive training or stratifying by sex. These findings are particularly concerning, as they suggest that older adults with hearing loss may be at a higher risk for unsafe driving, even if their driving behavior does not show significant changes over time.
Strategies for Safe Driving with Hearing Loss
There are several strategies that people with hearing loss can use to drive safely. The following are some tips and strategies that can help:
Get an Eye Test
It’s important to prioritize your vision while driving, especially if you have diminished hearing or other sensory impairments. Vision is the second most crucial sense behind the wheel, after hearing. Therefore, it’s essential to have regular vision check-ups to ensure your eyesight is as sharp as possible when driving.
Get a Wide-angle Rearview Mirror
In addition to regular check-ups, expanding your fields of view can help you take in more visual information while driving. A clip-on, wide-angle rearview mirror is a useful tool to help you see more of your surroundings and process them more efficiently. Some states, such as New York, require drivers with hearing impairment to use a larger full-view rearview mirror to ensure their safety on the road.
Reduce Distractions while Driving
Distractions while driving, such as loud music or talking on the phone, can make it even harder to hear important sounds. Turning off the radio or lowering the volume, and avoiding phone calls or texts while driving, can help reduce distractions and improve situational awareness.
Use Hearing Aids and Assistive Technologies
Hearing aids are devices that amplify sounds, making them louder and clearer. Modern hearing aids are discreet, comfortable, and offer excellent sound quality. They can also connect to your phone or other devices, making it easier to hear phone calls, music, or navigation instructions while driving.
Assistive technologies can also help improve driving safety. For example, visual alerts, such as flashing lights on the dashboard or vibrating seat cushions, can warn you of danger or upcoming traffic situations.
Practice Visual Scanning Techniques
People with hearing loss can compensate by using visual scanning techniques while driving. This involves checking your mirrors frequently, looking over your shoulder before changing lanes, and being extra cautious at intersections.
Driving is an essential part of our lives, and hearing loss can make it a challenging task. However, with the right strategies and tools, people with hearing loss can drive safely and confidently. By using hearing aids, visual scanning techniques, and reducing distractions while driving, people with hearing loss can stay safe on the road.
If you or someone you know is struggling with hearing loss, don’t wait to seek treatment. Early intervention is crucial in managing hearing loss and improving your quality of life. As a hearing professional, we offer a range of services, from hearing evaluations to hearing aid fittings, to help you hear better and live a fuller life. Don’t let hearing loss hold you back from driving or any other aspect of your life.
Call us today to schedule an appointment with one of our hearing professionals and start your journey towards better hearing.