One common misconception is that people who are deaf or hard of hearing cannot drive. This isn’t the case. If you have experienced hearing loss, you don’t need to worry that you’ll have to give up your license. Being able to hear can sometimes help on the road, but with a little retraining of your eyes, you can manage without needing any sound at all.
Who Is Driving with Hearing Loss?
About 325 million people globally are estimated to suffer from hearing loss severe enough to be disabling. Many, many more have hearing loss that doesn’t cause serious disability. More than 37 million people in the United States alone have some kind of hearing loss. Meanwhile, in the UK, about nine million people are affected by hearing loss.
Everyone’s experience with hearing loss is unique. There are many different types of hearing loss that can be caused by dozens of different things. Hearing loss can significantly impact your ability to engage in day-to-day activities like watching television, hearing the doorbell, or talking on the phone.
Those examples mainly just affect the individual. When it comes to driving, people without hearing loss tend to be concerned. What if a person with hearing loss endangers pedestrians or other drivers because they can’t hear a siren or a horn?
For the most part, these fears are ungrounded. Deaf and hard of hearing people have been driving cars for as long as cars have existed. Hearing loss doesn’t impact your ability to interpret information with your eyes, which is the most significant part of driving.
Think of it this way: If a person can drive with their car stereo turned all the way up and drowning out everything outside, why shouldn’t a person with hearing loss be able to drive?
Tips to Drive Safely with Hearing Loss
Statistically speaking, deaf and hard of hearing individuals are not involved in more traffic accidents than the average person. When you aren’t primarily relying on sound to know what’s out of sight, you end up more vigilantly using your eyes instead. Many deaf and hard of hearing people make visual observations and interpret visual data more quickly than hearing people can.
For people who have only recently developed a hearing loss, though, you may need to retrain your brain a little when you’re driving. Unless you’re one of the aforementioned people who like to keep their car stereo as loud as possible, chances are that you rely on sound a little to get by. You might be anxious about missing a siren or not hearing an important shout.
These are some tips to help you get used to driving and be as safe as possible.
- Wear Hearing Aids – In the United States, the majority of people who could benefit from a hearing aid have never been fitted for one. Hearing aids can greatly improve your quality of life. If you have been fitted for hearing aids, it can help to wear them when you drive. Not all hearing aids will restore your hearing perfectly, but they can help you be more aware of background sounds and ambient noise if nothing else.
- Check Mirrors Frequently – If you can’t hear sirens, then the only way you’ll know about an emergency vehicle’s approach is through sight. That’s why emergency vehicles have flashing lights. Make sure you check your mirrors often so you’re aware of what’s happening around you. That way, you’ll know what cars and pedestrians are in proximity to your vehicle, and you’ll see any emergency vehicles coming up behind you.
- Pay Attention to Lights – All drivers should pay attention to lights. If you have hearing loss, though, observing lights more closely is a good way to be extra vigilant. This goes for more than just emergency vehicle lights. You should also pay attention to traffic lights. Be aware of when your car is about to cross a “WALK” sign and double check for pedestrians.
- Get Regular Hearing Checkups – If you have hearing loss, especially progressive hearing loss, you should get regular checkups to recalibrate your hearing aids and make sure they’re working as well as possible.