How Can Hearing Loss Impact Driving Habits?

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

Don’t take your eyes off the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t say much about your other senses. Your ears, for example, are doing a ton of work while you’re driving, helping you track other vehicles, alerting you to information on your dashboard, and keeping you connected with the other people in your vehicle.

So how you drive can change if you’re going through hearing impairment. That doesn’t automatically mean you will have to quit driving because you’ve become excessively dangerous. Inexperience and distracted driving are bigger liabilities in terms of safety. Still, some special safeguards need to be taken by people with hearing loss to ensure they continue driving as safely as possible.

Hearing loss can impact your situational awareness but formulating good driving habits can help you remain a safe driver.

How your driving could be impacted 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 if you have complete hearing loss, your driving could change but you will still probably be able to drive. While driving you do use your hearing a great deal, after all. Here are some typical examples:

  • Other motorists will often use their horns to make you aware of their presence. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for example, or you begin to drift into the other lane, a horn can alert you before it becomes a problem.
  • Audible alerts will sound when your vehicle is trying to alert you to something, such as an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
  • You can often hear emergency vehicles before you see them.
  • Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles around you. For instance, you will normally be able to hear a large truck coming your way.
  • Your hearing will often alert you when your car has some kind of malfunction. If your engine is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for example.

All of these audio cues can help develop your overall situational awareness. As your hearing loss advances, you may miss more and more of these cues. But there are steps you can take to ensure you still remain as safe as you can while driving.

Developing new safe driving habits

If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s okay! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:

  • Put away your phone: Even if your hearing is strong, this one is still good advice. Today, one of the leading reasons for distraction is a cellphone. And when you have hearing loss that distraction is at least doubled. You will simply be safer when you put away your phone and it could save your life.
  • Don’t disregard your dash lights: Normally, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will ding or make some other sound. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and make sure your turn signals aren’t still blinking, or you don’t have a check engine light on.
  • 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.
  • Keep the noise inside your car to a minimum: It will be difficult for your ears to isolate noises when you have hearing loss. It will 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 smart idea to decrease the volume on your radio, keep conversation to a minimum, and put up your windows.

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 several ways you can be certain your hearing aid is a real advantage when you’re driving:

  • Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: 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 may even lead to a dangerous situation. So make sure everything is in good working order and the batteries are charged.
  • Have us dial in a driving setting for you: If you anticipate doing a fair amount of driving, you can ask us to program 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 beside and not in front of you), making your drive smoother and more enjoyable.
  • Wear your hearing aid each time you drive: It’s not going to help you if you don’t wear it! So make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids every time you drive. This will also help your brain get used to the sounds your hearing aid sends your way.

Lots of people with hearing loss keep driving and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Establishing safer 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.