- You often hear emergency vehicles before you see them
- When a train is approaching, they often blow their whistles to alert drivers
- When drivers push the brakes fast and hard, they make a specific sound
- If you are driving somewhere unfamiliar, GPS lets you listen to the directions
- Some sounds alert you to serious mechanical problems in your vehicle
For example, some road users are perfectly capable of using their sense of hearing but simply reduce the effect through distracted driving.
Hearing Loss, Age & Occupation
Since hearing loss often happens gradually with age, you may not realize that you’re not hearing typical driving sounds as well as you once did. In fact, age-related hearing changes can begin as early as age 40.
Known as presbycusis, hearing loss due to age affects us in several ways. When hearing in one ear is worse than the other, it’s more difficult to determine the location of sounds. This can lead to driving issues such as not being able to identify the direction from which a warning sign originates and then reacting in a way that may cause a collision.
While aging, genetics, and certain medical conditions can cause hearing loss, so can noise from occupational conditions. Veterans and workers in the public safety and manufacturing sectors are especially at risk of tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ears that results from exposure to loud noise, particularly over an extended period.
Tips for Safe Driving
- Schedule regular hearing and vision tests. Schedule a hearing test at age 50 and continue with regular exams every three years if results are normal. Diminished auditory abilities require you to rely more on vision. Eye conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts could cause difficulty with night driving, so early detection is important.
- Stay active and manage health conditions. View your overall health as a key part of safe driving. Consider, for example, the amount of flexibility needed to look over your shoulder or to parallel park on a car-lined street.
- Understand and adapt to physical changes. When physical changes make it more difficult to drive for any reason, adjusting your driving patterns and utilizing driver assistance technologies can help to make you more comfortable behind the wheel.
- Avoid distractions! Everyone should avoid distractions such as using the phone while driving, and for those with hearing loss, this is even more critical.
- Take a driver safety course. A defensive driving course, for example, can help you identify certain risks and teach you how to reduce the chance of an accident. Simple steps such as maintaining a good distance from the car in front of you, braking at the appropriate time, and paying extra attention at intersections can help keep everyone safe.