For many older adults, driving represents independence. Being able to drive to activities, the grocery store and social events is very important for maintaining happiness and mental and physical health. Though driving can be a challenge for people with hearing loss, there are many solutions and considerations to make sure that you are keeping yourself and others safe on the road.
Importance of hearing while driving
While it is obvious that vision is the most vital of the five senses for driving, hearing also plays an important role in vehicle operation. When there is an emergency, we need to hear the sounds of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars racing past so we can pull over to let them through. People with hearing loss are at risk of not hearing these sirens and not moving out of the way quickly enough. Additionally, the honk of another car can alert us to a dangerous situation. For example, if you accidentally drive through a red light, a car coming at you from another direction might honk several times to alert you so you can slam on the brakes before a collision occurs. Also, sometimes we forget to turn our turning signals off if it doesn't happen automatically. If you can't hear the clicking of your turn signal, this could cause a dangerous situation as well - fellow drivers might anticipate you are turning when you aren't.
How to mitigate hearing loss while driving
Though it can be a challenge to drive with hearing loss, it is possible with some extra care and alterations. Here are some tips:
- If you wear hearing aids, keep spare batteries with you to make sure your hearing aids work at all times.
- Purchase an extended rear-view mirror - called a full-view mirror - which gives you excellent rear vision. States vary by requirements, but in New York, for example, people with severe hearing loss must either wear a hearing aid while driving or use a full-view mirror. This restriction will be placed on one's driver's license.
- Avoid interfering noise. One study of seniors driving showed that those with hearing loss were more affected by distracters like radio, phone calls or another person talking.
In the event you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of hearing loss or find difficulties hearing sirens or emergency alarms while in a car, schedule an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional in your area!