We rely a lot on our senses when we drive. Our vision and hearing help to keep us safe on the road and alert us to oncoming emergency vehicles, pedestrians crossing and other drivers who are trying to get our attention. In many cases, we hear important sounds like police and ambulance sirens before we even see them.
Hearing loss is often hard to detect at first since the process can be gradual. There are also various degrees of hearing loss. It can be mild, moderate, severe or profound. According to Statistics Canada, more than half of Canadians aged 40 to 79 have at least mild hearing loss, but 77 percent of that same group had no perceived loss of hearing.
Hearing loss can affect our ability to react to our surroundings on the road. It’s important to take steps to treat it so that you can continue to drive safely.
Driving with hearing loss.
Being deaf or hard of hearing doesn’t necessarily prevent you from driving. Regulations involving hearing loss and driving are different depending on whether you’re a non-commercial (regular everyday) driver or commercial driver. “In Ontario, all drivers must meet basic medical and vision standards to operate motor vehicles. Higher standards apply for commercial drivers,” according to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Depending on the type of driving you’ll be doing, you should always check your provincial driving authority for more information. Consulting with a hearing professional can also help identify any limitation and offer solutions like hearing aids and advise on other means to help you drive safely.
Staying safe on the road.
It may be difficult to rely on auditory cues when driving with hearing loss, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad driver. The effects of hearing loss on the ability to drive are not well established. “At this time, there is no significant evidence to show that hearing loss has an adverse impact on one’s ability to drive,” our partners at Connect Hearing says. However, it never hurts to be prepared and take extra precautions. You should always work with your audiologist to ensure you have the right tools to help drive safely. Here are some tips from Connect Hearing to help you stay safe on the road:
Before you head out.
- Work with an audiologist to determine the assistive devices you’ll need to drive safely.
- Maintain your hearing aids with proper care and regular cleaning. Feedback from hearing aids can be a major distraction, especially when driving. Make sure you are properly cleaning and caring for your hearing aids. If you are experiencing feedback, reach out to your hearing care professional for support.
- Check your hearing aid batteries. It’s a good idea to carry a spare set of batteries when leaving the house. If your batteries signal that they are low while you’re driving, pull over to a safe place and change them.
- Get regular car checkups to ensure your vehicle is in good working order.
While on the road.
- Rely on visual cues such as traffic signals and signs, other driver’s left/right indicators, and flashing lights from emergency vehicles.
- Remove distractions such as excess noise from the radio or an open window. Ask passengers to keep their noise level to a minimum.
- Pay attention to your vehicle signal lights to ensure they are only on when needed, otherwise they could confuse other drivers.
- Install assistive devices such as a panoramic mirror to help you see objects around your vehicle better.
Hearing aid 2.0.
- Discreet designs and rechargeable batteries. With the advent of 3D printing machines, you can get a hearing aid like the Phonak Vitro B that’s perfectly molded to your ear. If you’re looking for a rechargeable option, the Unitron’s Moxi All can give you 24 hours of uninterrupted hearing before the next charge.
- Wireless streaming with Bluetooth. One of the most ground-breaking improvements in hearing technology is Bluetooth compatibility. Hearing aids can now be paired with other devices like your TV or mobile phone for continuous listening experience.
- Smartphone connectivity. Like the saying goes, “there’s an app for that.” There are many apps now that allow you to adjust different settings of your hearing aid, such as turning the volume up or down right from your smartphone.