You might worry about whether it is safe for you or a loved one to drive with hearing loss. It is legal to drive with hearing loss, but some states require specific vehicle adaptations, depending on the type and level of hearing impairment. The focus of this article is not on the legality of driving with impaired hearing. This article explores the question Is it safe to drive with age-related hearing loss?
Step One – Get a Hearing Evaluation
People tend to think of age-related hearing loss as a normal part of growing older, so they do not get a professional hearing assessment or talk with a doctor about the condition. A third of people over age 65 have some hearing loss. Two-thirds of people over age 75 have lost some of their ability to hear.
Hearing loss is one of the most ignored medical conditions today. People wait an average of seven years to seek medical help, after noticing a problem with their hearing. Hearing aids can improve hearing for millions of people, but very few people will wear the devices. As a result of these two facts, many drivers have untreated hearing impairments.
Audiologists say that everyone should get a baseline hearing exam at age 55. You should get regular hearing checkups after the initial assessment. Whenever you notice a change in your hearing, you should check with your doctor. There might be something else going on, like high blood pressure that can cause ringing in the ears and prevent you from hearing well.
How to Be a Safer Driver with Hearing Impairment
Audiology experts say that most people with hearing impairment can be safer drivers, if they follow these recommendations:
- Work closely with your hearing specialist to find the best hearing aid for you. Learn how to make your device comfortable. Tell your audiologist what you dislike about your hearing aid, so you can correct the problem instead of putting the device into a drawer. Have your hearing specialist fine-tune your hearing aid to optimize your ability to hear.
- Keep it quiet in the car. Cut down on noises that will compete with the sounds you need to hear to drive safely. Turn down the radio volume and close the windows.
- Get your eyes checked. If you have hearing loss, you will need to keep a sharp lookout to notice things on the road you cannot hear. Make sure you get regular professional eye exams, keep your eyeglass prescription up to date and wear any needed glasses when driving.
- Have extra mirrors installed to increase your field of view. Some states require drivers with hearing impairment to use larger rearview mirrors. Even if your state does not mandate this equipment, you can be a safer driver if you expand your field of vision.
- Cut down on distractions. We should all avoid distracted driving. People with sensory impairment need to be able to focus on the roadway, at least as much as those without these challenges. Reduce the risk of missing a vital visual or auditory cue, by minimizing your distractions when behind the wheel.
You should also talk with your doctor and audiologist about additional ways you can be a safer driver with age-related hearing loss.
Every state makes unique laws that might vary from the general law of this article. Be sure to talk with an elder law attorney near you about your state’s regulations.
AARP. “Driving with Hearing Loss?” (accessed September 14, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/auto/driver-safety/info-2019/driving-with-hearing-loss.html