Driving with hearing loss: what you need to know

When thinking about what impediments people may face when driving, sight loss rather than hearing loss may first spring to mind. However, knowing what to be aware of when driving with hearing loss can equally be as important. With hearing loss being the third most chronic physical condition in the US, it’s important that sufferers of all degrees are aware of what difficulties they may face when driving, so they can enhance theirs and others safety on the road.

Effects of hearing loss on driving

 One of the most obvious effects hearing loss may have on driving, is the reduced ability to listen out for emergency sirens, communication from your passengers, and communication from other vehicles such as a honk. Further, if you are significantly deaf, problems may arise if you get pulled over by the cops when you’re alone. They may not understand sign language and it’s easy to be taken advantage of when you cannot communicate properly.

How important is hearing for driving

 If you cannot properly hear audio signals from other vehicles on the road, your reaction times will be slower than others. This is an issue if you are solely relying on your hearing and not using your other senses, as not reacting in time can be the cause of a fatal accident.

Additionally, if you are travelling with other passengers, you may find yourself in a situation where an individual attempts to communicate something to you or warn you of a danger on the road, and you cannot hear in time. On the other hand, you may have passengers who are talking loudly, which can become overwhelming for a person with hearing loss and therefore acts as a potential safety hazard as they cannot listen out for other more important signals.

Tips for such drivers

As highlighted, there are a number of difficulties people with hearing loss can face on the road. A strong word of advice is to work closely with an audiologist who will help you to make the right adjustments so you can drive as safely and as comfortably as possible. Hearing aids are extremely useful devices, but it is important that the user knows how to properly operate them.

When mitigating the effects of not being able to listen out for sirens, honks, and other signals, it’s important to make use of your vision. This means consistently checking your mirrors and not taking your eyes of the road. If you find that you really struggle with your reaction time, you may look to purchasing a car with a smart assistant which alerts you when there are important sounds going off.

If you are consistently struggling to communicate with others in the car, perhaps invest in some lip-reading mirrors which will allow you to understand simple sentences without strain. This could be a life-saver in many situations.

Finally, try to keep noise distraction in the vehicle at a minimum. This means turning down the radio, trying not to have too many speak over one another, and keeping the windows closed so wind doesn’t blow in your ear.

Driving as a person with hearing loss is usually a normal and pleasant experience, after all it’s not illegal to drive if you’re deaf or hard of hearing! However, these tips are important as they will make you aware of what to look out for and facilitate a safe and easy drive!

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