When we learn to drive we are taught that good driving requires keen vision and sharp hearing. The ability to hear sounds on the road alert us to approaching emergency vehicles and warn us when we are veering across the rumble strip onto the shoulder of the road. Hearing the horns of other drivers helps us to avert accidents.
Although we may have been taught to listen well while driving, that doesn’t meant that the hearing impaired can’t drive or be effective drivers. Quite the opposite. Those who have hearing loss drive every day and they have fine-tuned their skills to remain safe drivers. If you or a loved one is hearing impaired, be aware of the following suggestions that can keep you safe behind the wheel.
The most important step is to have a hearing exam. If you or a loved one notices that hearing isn’t what it used to be, make an appointment to see an audiologist. Hearing loss can be enhanced with hearing aids that are small and can be adjusted to different environments. Your hearing loss may be caused by an infection, swelling, ear wax or some other obstruction in the ear canal. A professional exam can help to detect these conditions and create a treatment plan that may improve your hearing. Inform the audiologist about the most common routes you drive, the level of traffic congestion and how frequently you drive these routes. The hearing aid can be adjusted to maximize your hearing ability while you drive in your environment.
Eliminate distractions. Every driver can benefit from eliminating distractions while behind the wheel but it becomes even more important when hearing is impaired.
- Turn off the radio. Even soft music will add noise to the car’s environment. It’s important that you focus solely on the street and road noises you need to hear to remain safe.
- Close the windows to eliminate noise from the street. It’s nice to have the wind in your hair, as it were, but it will compete with your ability to hear important noises like alarms, horns and emergency vehicles.
- Inform your passengers of your hearing impairment and ask them to help you. They can alert you to the horns of other drivers and other noises. Ask them to refrain from loud conversations in the car which may distract you.
Rely on your sharp vision. If you are hearing impaired your vision can step up to keep you safe. Today’s traffic systems have many layers of built-in visual cues to support you when driving.
Be acutely aware of your surroundings and watch for visual alarms such as emergency lights, warning lights at railroad crossings, crosswalk lights, and certainly traffic lights. Pay attention to the blue warning lights and rapidly blinking red lights that have been installed in many traffic light systems. They will alert you to oncoming emergency vehicles.
If you wear sunglasses, make sure that they don’t impair your vision. The most protective sunglasses are tinted light grey, not a dark green, yellow or pink. Sunglasses should protect your eyes from the rays of the sun but not obstruct clarity of vision in any way.
It’s important to be able to drive and take care of the activities of daily living. If you are hearing impaired these tips will help you to remain safe and sound on busy highways, city boulevards and the streets of your neighborhood.