The body’s natural aging process erodes many of our senses, such as smell, taste, sight and hearing. We can work with our medical providers for some improvements, but there are precautions we must take in our day-to-day tasks to remain safe and alert. Driving is a freedom many adults enjoy well into senior years, but a few considerations must be taken if you’re affected by hearing loss.
Drivers today face more distractions than ever, with multi-function radios, GPS systems, and computerized dashboards – not to mention cellular phones. Drivers must be hyper vigilant to maintain focus on the road, and situational awareness of other drivers who are not as focused. Those with hearing impairments must use their other senses to accommodate for what they may not be hearing. Here are some ways to stay safe.
Put away all distractions and focus on driving. Leave your cell phone out of reach and if you need to, pull over to use it. If you have hearing aids, by all means, now is the time to use them.
Carefully check your surroundings visually as you drive. Remember that early driving advice about checking your mirrors every few seconds? Don’t forget that advice – check your mirrors with a quick glance about every 5-8 seconds. Also, don’t forget about your vehicle’s blind spots and be sure to check those each time you change lanes, or pull into an intersection.
When checking the mirrors, be especially aware of any flashing lights, which may indicate an emergency vehicle coming behind or beside you. While you may not be able to hear the siren until it’s closer, frequent mirror checks allow for notification in plenty of time to yield.
Besides using your visual cues, be sure to pick up on any scents that seem out of place. A sudden smell of hot brakes could indicate a truck in distress on the side of the road, or an accident ahead. Both of these situations could lead to suddenly stopped traffic. A chemical smell could indicate a substance on the surface of the road, affecting traction. Use all your other sense to your advantage.
Turn the radio down or off. If you have passengers watching a movie, or using a handheld device, ask them to turn off the sound or use headphones. In many, hearing loss is amplified with each additional sound in the vicinity, so keep the extra noises to a minimum and conversations soft and minimal.
When navigating an unfamiliar route or city, take a few minutes before leaving to carefully read your planned route via a computer or map. Even if you use the GPS, having some idea of your route will help you during navigation and possibly prevent a missed turn if you don’t hear the cue on the GPS.
In general, being more cautious and more observant is the safest course of action when driving with a hearing impairment. Use common sense and be safe out there.