Keep Your Ears on the Road 

According to available evidence, hearing loss does not affect motor vehicle crash risk.1 Reasons for this include hearing’s secondary importance to the driving task and drivers generally being aware of their hearing loss and taking steps to compensate. 

These compensations might include using hearing aids, driving more cautiously or using cues like their car’s audio, visual and haptic (vibration and touch-based) safety systems. 

Which is to say, it pays to ensure you’re maximising your ability to hear what’s going on around you, both within your vehicle and on the road outside it.
 

Good Driving Environments

One of the keys to safe driving with hearing loss is to create a suitable ‘sound environment’ inside your car. Steps to creating this environment might include:2

  • Minimising internal noise, for example, by moderating radio, music, audiobook or podcast volume
  • Keeping your windows up to minimise road and wind noise
  • Using your cars integrated hands-free Bluetooth system for taking or making calls
  • Activating your car’s audio alert systems 

If you use a hearing aid and drive frequently, you can request that your hearing care professional adjust your hearing aids settings to include a 'car program'.3 This program allows you to change the direction of the hearing aid microphones so you can pick up speech from any seating position while in a vehicle. 
 

Awareness Is Everything

Attention to the road and other road users is the number one safety factor when driving. As noted above, the good news for those with hearing loss is that Australian and US studies have found that hearing loss doesn’t increase crash risk.1

Your hearing can identify both car noises (such as engine sounds, reversing alarms and other alerts) and external noises (such as emergency vehicle sirens, railroad crossings and car horns). It contributes to your general alertness and ‘situational awareness’.

Notably, studies have found that drivers with ‘dual sensory impairment’ (i.e. hearing and vision loss) were at greater crash risk.4 As with hearing loss, vision loss is usually identified and mitigated by those experiencing it, and license testing includes vision testing to minimise risks.

Practically, following the simple steps outlined above can improve your driving performance. By minimising distractions and maximising your safety, such as enhancing alerts, you can keep your attention (audio and visual) outside the car, where it belongs. 

Visit your local Connect Hearing clinic for assistance, advice and perhaps even a ‘grease and oil change’ (ear cleaning and hearing aid check) for your ears. You’ll be glad you did.
 

References:

  1. Austroads (n.d.), Assessing Fitness to Drive, Austroads, accessed 5 March 2024.

  2. Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (16 January 2024), Does hearing loss affect your ability to drive?, RACQ, accessed 5 March 2024.

  3. Healthy Hearing (29 December 2021), How does hearing loss affect driving?, Healthy Hearing, accessed 5 March 2024.

  4. The Hearing Journal (January 2021), Driving Risk Among Seniors With Hearing and Vision Loss, Wolthers Kluwer Health, Inc., accessed 5 March 2024.