Hearing loss impacts on many facets of day-to-day life, although it seems that driving isn’t one of them. However, drivers with hearing loss were likely to experience poorer driving performance when faced with distractions.
Studies have so far shown that those with hearing loss do not cause more traffic accidents than drivers with normal hearing. The Australian traffic authority, Austroads, states that “mild to moderate hearing loss does not appear to affect a person’s ability to drive safely. It may be that a loss of hearing is well compensated for since most people who are hard of hearing are aware of their disability and therefore tend to be more cautious and to rely more on visual cues.”
While there is no conclusive evidence that drivers with hearing lossare at a disadvantage on the road, it is important to be aware and take some necessary precautions. Research did reveal that worse driving performance by people with hearing loss is caused by the presence of distracters. Older drivers with hearing impairmentshould therefore make a conscious effort to reduce in-vehicle distractions such as listening to the radio, chatting with passengers, looking at GPS devices and using mobile phones.
Furthermore, good hearing is essential to good driving as a lot of safe driving is related to the driver’s ability to hear potential danger before seeing it. For example, you may hear a car before it comes around a curve or hear an ambulance siren as it approaches you. Hearing is also crucial in parking lots where it’s important to hear approaching cars as you reverse. It is essential to also realise that given their age and deteriorating health, older drivers are more like to be injured or even die in car accidents.
When you get behind the wheel, you are not only driving to protect yourself but to protect those driving and walking around you. It is key to be aware of your hearing loss to ensure the safety of you and others.