Traveling in the car safely with hearing loss

Most of us travel by car on a regular basis and don’t really think about our hearing loss as an issue. In fact, there are several things that require us to be more aware than the normal hearing driver. We have to pay closer attention to our mirrors and what is visually going on around us since we may not hear the warning sounds of an ambulance or other emergency situations. When we are in familiar territory we have a pretty good idea of how to cope with our surroundings.

On the other hand, if you are traveling in a strange place where you don’t know the roads and are not familiar with your directions or different traffic patterns, things can get a lot more stressful. On a long road trip there is an issue of being able to communicate with other people in the car. It can be very boring to be driving for several hours without
being able to carry on a conversation or comment on the things that you may be passing.

Fortunately, there are things that you can do to make your travels easier and safer for
everyone on the road. My personal favorite for car travel is my PockeTalker – a personal amplification device that works with my hearing aids, t-coil and a microphone. It allows me to clip a microphone on another person’s seat belt and transmits directly to my T-coil. This way, I do not pick up most of the road noise or other background sounds and can actually hear what the person is saying. Many of the newer hearing aids also have Bluetooth remote microphones that do the same thing.

Don’t let yourself become too tired. Set a time limit and plan for places to stop so you can get out of the car and move around. You may not realize that driving with hearing loss is more stressful, but it is safer to take breaks before getting too tired. If you are listening to music, you can make adjustments through the audio system to customize the sound by adjusting the speakers and the tone controls to accommodate your hearing loss. A lot of people with a high frequency loss will get a much better sound by
turning the treble up and raising the speakers closest to their position in the car.
Have a friend or your mechanic road test the car occasionally with you and ask him/her to listen for unusual sounds that you may not be able to hear.

If you are pulled over by law enforcement, keep your hands visible. Have a Hearing Loss identification card on your visor and show it to him/her before continuing your discussion. This is safer for all involved. Your hearing loss is not visible!

Written by Lesley Bergquist