Do you think nothing of jumping in the car and driving to the local shop for a pint of milk? I imagine the answer is yes, we all do! However, how much do you rely on your hearing when you drive? Probably more than you know! Obviously your sight is the most important but your hearing helps you to detect approaching emergency vehicles, hear a blaring horn, or realise that your indicators are on. Hearing loss doesn’t significantly impact your ability to drive but its never hurts to be prepared and to take extra precautions.
Get your hearing assessed
The most important thing to do is that if you’re not hearing as well as you used to, have a hearing test! You may just have a bad cold or an obstruction in your ear that can be removed. If the diagnosis if that you do have a hearing loss, your Audiologist will recommend the best course of treatment for you.
This treatment may of course be hearing aids. Hearing aids amplify the important sounds that you hear on the road. They can also keep your auditory system healthy so your brain doesn’t forget how to interpret other sounds in your environment.
Driving with hearing loss
Hearing aids of the modern age are technological marvels with sensitive microphones. These are designed to differentiate between speech and background noise. Even with a pair of hearing aids, you’ll still want to elminiate distractions while you’re driving. Here are a few tips to keep those distractions to a minimum:
Maintain your hearing aids! Feedback from your aids is a major distraction. You should see your Audiologist as regularly as they recommend and make sure they show you how to care for your aids at home. Also be sure to let them know if you’re experiencing feedback.
Ensure that your batteries are fresh. We always recommend that a spare set of batteries go with you when you leave the house. If your batteries begin to run low while you’re driving, pull over when it’s safe to do so and change them.
Keep the radio volume down! You need to keep your head clear to focus on the road and noisy music can affect your concentration level. Keeping the volume low is also good for your remaining sense of hearing.
Ask your passengers to keep the conversation quiet and to a minimum. While conversation often comes hand in hand with car journeys, it will take your attention of the road.
Keep the windows close to minimise road noise. Today’s cars are designed to reduce road noise which is great news for anyone with hearing loss.
Keep your phone shut away. Having a conversation on the phone whilst driving undoubtedly distracts you from the road. If you really must have the option of talking while driving then talk to your Audiologist about your hearing aids’ hands-free Bluetooth option.
Rely on visual clues
Once distractions are minimised, you’ll have more capacity to focus on the information you’re ears are collecting along the way. Here’s how your eyes can help you:
- Just as you do your hearing, have your eyes examined annually and wear prescription eyewear when you drive. This is important for your safety on the road as well as those who share it with you.
- Consider investing in a larger rear view mirror. While these don’t get rid of blind spots, they may help decrease the need to look over your shoulder.
- Look for flashing lights on approaching vehicles and at railroad crossings. In the city, use building windows and other reflective surfaces to warn you of approaching emergency vehicles. Check your rear view mirror frequently (and safely) for vehicles approaching from behind.
Where the rubber meets the road
Whether you hear well or have some degree of hearing loss, driving comes with a lot of responsibility. That means anytime you improve your driving skills, you reduce the risk of becoming an accident statistic and help make our roads safer.
If you are worried about your hearing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.