When it comes to driving, all of your attention must be set on that task and all of the factors that come with it. With other drivers passing by, pedestrians crossing the street and construction workers in the road, you can’t afford to lack one of your senses while driving.
It may not seem crucial in the moment, but if you are driving with any degree of hearing loss, you may be missing some key aspects of what’s happening on the road. From alerting honks, the sirens of emergency vehicles making their way through traffic and motorcycles passing through your blind spot, your hearing works in tandem with your vision to ensure you are aware of your surroundings when driving.
Why is Driving with Hearing Loss Dangerous?
Hearing loss is a relatively common occurrence across the population, especially for those over the age of 65. Of people over the age of 65, approximately one-third experience some degree of hearing loss. At age 75 and above, the rate of hearing loss doubles to two-thirds. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published a study highlighting older adults with hearing loss as typically less proficient in driving tests when presented with distractions compared to their peers without hearing loss. This finding suggests that hearing loss plays a big part in being an alert driver.
Can Deaf People Drive?
Many hearing people wonder if driving is legal for a deaf person. How do deaf people drive without being able to hear sirens or honking horns? In fact, deaf drivers are generally just as safe as hearing drivers. Some deaf people use electronic devices in their cars, such as a lighted panel that alerts them to sounds coming from outside. Deaf drivers also pay attention to visual cues, such as the flashing lights of an ambulance or cues from other drivers on the road, such as everyone pulling over to the shoulder.
Driving with hearing loss is not the same as driving while deaf. Although driving with hearing loss may not be illegal, studies have shown that the average person with signs of hearing loss waits seven years before getting his or her hearing checked. That means seven years of experiencing greater mental fatigue while driving related to overcompensating for a lack of hearing. Those with hearing loss are still trying to use their sense of hearing while driving without any of the aids available to deaf drivers. Some hearing-impaired drivers may not even realize they have hearing loss.
Taking control of your hearing health as soon as you notice any differences is crucial to your health and safety. For many people, hearing loss may seem to sneak up slowly and is harder to notice. That’s why older adults and anyone who notices any degree of hearing loss should get a baseline hearing evaluation starting at age 55 with regular check-ups to allow the independence of driving to span the lifetime.
Tips for Safer Driving with Hearing Loss
Although there are no restrictions for driving with hearing loss, the following are ways to make your driving safer for you, your passengers and other drivers:
- Get treatment for your hearing loss!
- Maintain your hearing aids and keep extra batteries in the car
- Keep radio volume low
- Ask any passengers to speak quietly
- Keep windows closed
- Do not use your phone
- Ensure hearing aids are properly maintained and serviced before driving
- Use visual cues such as signs to enhance alertness of the driving situation around you
If you believe that you are experiencing hearing loss, or are age 55 or older and have not yet had a hearing screening, schedule a visit with our professional audiology team at Sonora Hearing Care LLC. Protecting your hearing is not only important to protect yourself, but also other drivers.