Hearing Loss and Driving Safety - Honk If You Can Hear Me
Driving is as American as apple pie, the Fourth of July and county fairs. Most of us think of driving as a natural-born right, granted to us on our 16th birthday. Who doesn’t remember the first time they soloed in the family car? Or that first road trip with friends and no parents! Man, that was living.
Yep, back in the day, driving was as natural as breathing and walking. But maybe you’ve noticed a “hitch in your giddy up” and breathing while walking up the driveway is a little more, umm, difficult. All part of nature’s little joke called aging. Things just don’t work the way they used to, and a change in vision or hearing loss, a slowing of the reflexes can mean you’re grounded – for life. At some point, we are no longer the safe drivers we used to be.
Not only do we risk injury to ourselves, but we also put into harm’s way everyone else on the road doing their daily errands – just like you.
Some Facts To Back Up The Facts
No one wants to give up their driving privileges. It’s for old people, the infirm or those with more than a few senior moments throughout the day. The fact is as we age our reaction time slows, our ability to process stimuli slow, our short-term memory – well let’s face, just about everything slows!
So how do all these wonderful aging effects, affect our ability to drive? Dr. Robin Gonzalez published a piece at newsok.com that describes the problems senior drivers and their families face.
The facts back up what most of us already know, according to Dr. Gonzalez:
- According to the Federal Highway Administration, drivers over 75 have the second highest number of fatal automobile accidents.
- Older drivers are more likely to be injured and require hospitalization than younger drivers. Those with creaky bones in the morning would agree, yes?
- Older drivers are more likely to die in automobile accidents than their younger companions on the road. (That creaky bone thing, again.)
- 21% of Americans report some sort of vision impairment even if they wear glasses – prescription glasses. One in five drivers coming toward you has a problem seeing you!
- Hearing loss, common among the older crowd, affects 33% of drivers over 65 years of age.
- Seniors reflexes slow with age, making driving – especially on busy highways – a dangerous adventure for the driver, passengers and others sharing the interstate.
- Some seniors experience a degree of dementia as more and more of the synapses in the brain become disconnected. This affects the ability to make quick decisions or to react intuitively, creating more than a mere nuisance on the road.
If You Can’t Hear It, You Can’t Avoid It
Most of us think of driving as a vision thing. As long as you can SEE the road, you’re okay. Not so, unfortunately.
You may not realize it but a lot of safe driving is related to the driver’s ability to hear potential danger before even seeing it. Good hearing is essential to good driving.
Think about it. You HEAR a car coming before you see it rounding the curve. You hear the ambulance siren before you see the ambulance, you hear the idiot passing you on the right before you see him whiz by you.
The ability to hear is essential to safe driving. So why is one in 10 drivers driving around with some degree of hearing loss? And what about you? How’s the ol’ hearing after all of these years? Just as it takes 10 times as much light to see while driving at night for older drivers, it takes the full range of hearing to localize sounds, identify them and assess them for appropriate action.
Hear that ambulance? You pull over to the side of the road and stop. You don’t hear the ambulance and you may cause a delay in getting to the hospital despite the flashing lights and blaring sirens. Worse, you could cause an accident if you do not react appropriately for an emergency vehicle.
Another dangerous scenario is the parking lot. You are beginning to back up out of your space. You take a look behind you on both sides – no pedestrians or other cars backing out. You begin to back out and boom, a car comes zooming down the parking lot aisle. For persons with hearing loss and not wearing hearing aids – this is a dangerous scenario. Your reaction time may not be fast enough by the time you see the car (let alone hearing it). Often times in driving situations it is our hearing that first alerts us to danger due to blind spots or the inability to see while looking one direction and not the other.
Time for a Hearing Evaluation?
When you get behind the wheel and take flight on the road, you are not only driving to protect yourself but to protect those driving and walking around you. If this has hit home with you and you suspect you may have hearing loss, it is time to have your hearing evaluated –for your safety while driving and others on the road.
Or perhaps it is a friend or a loved one you suspect may have hearing loss. Sit them down and discuss not only the communication issues they have been experiencing but discuss the concerns of their safety and that of others while they drive.
By treating hearing loss with digital hearing aids, you regain the ability to hear soft and loud sounds all around you to improve your overall awareness while behind the wheel.
Visit an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist today to determine if you have hearing loss and if you are a hearing aid candidate. It is the right thing to do for you and the safety of others.