It is estimated that more than 40% of people over 65 face hearing loss, but only a quarter of that number wear hearing aids. What is the reason for this discrepancy? The fact is that hearing loss is often gradual, and most people might not even be able to identify that they are experiencing it. Some are concerned that by admitting they have hearing loss or using hearing instruments they might seem old. While studies have shown that untreated hearing loss is linked to social isolation, depression, and even dementia, it also poses safety concerns as well, especially while driving.
Driving with Hearing Loss
When we get behind the wheel and hit the open road, safety is always a concern. Every year in the U.S., the average number of car accidents reach over 6 million. More than 90 people die in car accidents each day. Careful driving requires strong visual and auditory senses to make informed and quick decisions. It’s easy to understand that driving with hearing loss becomes an immediate safety concern. The risk is elevated when hearing loss is combined with the ordinary distractions of driving. One’s ability to hear vital safety cues such as a honking horn, sirens, or other vehicles accelerating close by are greatly lowered with hearing loss.
A study on older adults with hearing loss published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found a significant correlation between hearing impairment and driving performance in the presence of distractors. The study found that the additional effort of listening to a degraded auditory signal detracts one’s resources in other cognitive tasks, making it more difficult to drive safely on the road.
Good hearing improves one’s ability to drive, but adults facing hearing loss don’t necessarily have to hang up their keys and stay off the road. Instead they should research ways that can help them navigate the road safely. Here are some tips for driving safely with hearing loss.
If you have hearing loss, try to avoid multi-tasking while driving. One way to do this is to put down your phone! Texting while driving leads to many accidents, and talking on the phone can equally be as distracting. When you’re texting or talking on the phone, you’re busy straining to hear the conversation as opposed to focusing on the road. If you’re in a situation where you must to use your phone, pull your car over to avoid any potential accidents.
Turn down the music.
Playing music while you drive is a distraction, even for someone with normal hearing. Having loud music play while driving creates barriers in hearing sound cues from the outside driving environment. Loud music can mute outside sounds from an ambulance or police car siren that are approaching. These are noises you do not want to miss in case you need to move your car out of the way.
Keep your eyes on the road.
Paying attention visually is always important while driving. Doing this is extra important for those facing hearing loss because visual cues are even more critical in making sense of the open road. Be sure to pay closer attention to traffic signals and make use of your side and rear view mirrors. Hearing loss makes it harder to pinpoint the relative distance of moving vehicles, so using your eyes carefully is important for protecting yourself and those around you.
Drive with your hearing aids.
If you have hearing aids, be sure to always drive with them. It’s important to be aware of your car’s atmosphere and how it impacts your hearing aid’s functionality. Instead of driving with the windows down, turn on the air conditioning. The draft from an open window adds additional noise and may impair your hearing, putting you at a higher risk while driving.
Get your hearing checked.
If you haven’t already, get your hearing checked. The Center for Hearing and Communication found that people with hearing loss wait an average of 7 years before seeking help! If you feel you have hearing loss, getting a hearing aid greatly increases your hearing and safety on the road. If you already wear hearing aids, make sure you always wear them while operating a vehicle and continue to get regular hearing aid checkups.
Schedule an Appointment with Focus Hearing
If you believe you’re suffering from hearing loss, contact us at Focus Hearing to schedule a hearing test today.