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At 16 years old, getting your license meant a new sense of freedom and independence. And even as we age, autonomy is deeply connected to our ability to safely operate a vehicle. But our bodies may have been much different however many decades ago when we went through traffic safety school.
Today, your mobility, reaction time and the amount of distractions available in the car may look much different. Using hearing aids to improve your awareness while driving and keep you safely on the road for many years to come.
Age remains the greatest predictor of hearing loss in the United States. While one in every eight Americans over the age of 12 show signs of hearing loss in both ears, the percentage of folks with difficulty hearing climbs exponentially as we age. At 65 years of age, one third of people have hearing loss.
This is because the natural aging process depletes the integral cells of the inner ear. In addition to time, excessive noise exposure can also harm these cells. They are responsible for collecting the spectrum of sounds from the world, turning it into sound information and delivering this sound information to the brain for processing.
We are born with a finite number and as they are lost, we are able to collect less of the world’s sound. We lose frequencies at first, which is why speech clarity is an early warning sign of hearing loss. Our brain is receiving less sound information to complete the puzzle of conversation.
Hearing loss is highly treatable
While age-related (and noise-induced) hearing loss is irreversible, it’s also highly treatable. Unfortunately, many folks wait until their hearing loss has wreaked havoc on their independence and in their relationships before they decide to intervene.
Instead of waiting to treat hearing loss, choosing an intervention like hearing aids can bring back listening ease and help people both retain and regain their freedom and autonomy.
Five tips for driving with hearing aids
You probably learned to drive at a time when hearing loss wasn’t a part of your life. Over time, many of the conscious ways you evaluated safety have become unconscious, this pertains to both hearing and vision. Now, you’re hearing in an entirely new way and you’ll need to spend time revisiting some of those unconscious alert systems.
Practice makes perfect
Your audiologist will help you make a plan to adjust to your new hearing aids. Just like strengthening any muscle, repetition helps the adoption process. Once you’ve become accustomed to wearing your hearing aids at home, take them out for a spin.
Choose familiar routes first, so that you can isolate the new variables you’re adding to your experience. Notice how awareness and sounds have changed. You’re adding additional information for your brain to process and adjusting to this new reality will take time.
Give yourself ample time
Speaking of time, adding some on to your estimated trip will also relieve some pressure. When we are in a hurry, part of our mental focus detours into monitoring the clock. Feeling rushed in general contributes to hasty decisions and diminished awareness to the environment. Add half of what you think the trip will take so that you can give your full attention to the road.
The bells and whistles in today’s cars heap on distractions at our fingertips. As you practice driving with hearing aids, choose to turn off excessive interference like the radio. At least at first, your full attention can be on the road. Then, as you are more comfortable and confident, you can add them back in gradually.
Wait to connect
One of the major attractions of today’s hearing aids is their ability to connect to bluetooth technology. However, phone calls, navigation audio, podcasts and playlists are all supremely distracting!
Once you’ve mastered the art of driving with your new hearing aids, you can spend time safely parked as you play with your new technology. This gives you the opportunity to develop familiarity with the alerts and sounds of bluetooth connectivity so that you won’t be taken aback when they sound off while driving.
Inform your driving companions
Ask for some accommodation from your driving companions. At first, a chatty group of folks in the car with you will steal attention from the road. Let them know that you are concentrating on their safety and that you’d appreciate a quiet ride.
This goes for folks helping with directions, too. Let them know that you’d appreciate instruction well in advance, so that they’re not barking orders at you to move across three lanes of traffic in the span of thirty seconds.