In the United States, 20% of the population experiences hearing loss. Among older Americans, age 65 and up, 30% of people experience hearing loss. And, among Americans age 75 and older, 50% of people experience hearing loss.
There is an undeniable link between aging and hearing loss. Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is one of the most common types (the other one is noise-induced hearing loss, which affects people of all ages). For some, hearing loss is a natural part of aging. However, hearing loss does not stop people from leading active, fulfilling lives!
Treating hearing loss with the use of hearing aids brings significant benefits. With sophisticated hearing features and advanced technology with wireless capabilities, today’s older Americans are unburdened by the clunky hearing devices of the past. While untreated hearing loss may cause people to feel isolated, the use of hearing aids ensures that we are still active and mobile in our lives.
Driving is an important part of being independent and mobile as we age. Here are a few tips on driving with hearing loss.
Take into Account the Factors of Aging
It is important to be aware of your abilities as you age. Though everyone ages differently, some commonalities may include: slowed motor reflexes and reaction times, limited dexterity, decreased vision, muscle pain or stiffness, reduced strength and flexibility, and hearing loss.
In many ways, decades of driving have given us a sort of “muscle memory” when it comes to performing certain tasks: checking over the shoulder, checking the rearview and side mirrors, craning our neck to reverse, braking at a moment’s notice, and so on. As we get older, it’s important to take stock of how our current physical abilities may impact these motions.
Experts ask us to consider:
- Neck pain or stiffness that makes it harder to look over your shoulder;
- Leg pain that makes it difficult to move your foot from the gas to the brake pedal;
- Diminished arm strength that makes it hard to turn the steering wheel quickly and effectively;
- Reaction times that slow with age;
- Losing the ability to effectively divide your attention between multiple activities.
(Source: Help Guide)
Some of us have 20/20 vision, while others require corrective lenses. Regardless of your sight, it is important to schedule an annual eye exam. Make sure your prescriptions are up to date on your eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Additionally, make sure your line of vision in your vehicle is clear – and this means clean windows, rearview and side mirrors, and front and back windshields. Make sure your windshield wipers are in top form – dull ones could make it difficult to see in rainfall. Your headlights should be kept clean as well, as this can make a big difference in low light.
Speaking of light, it is best to do most of your driving in daylight. Nighttime creates difficult conditions for vision – especially if you have poor eyesight.
Driving a vehicle requires a lot of physical ability – even though it may just feel like sitting. Your muscles must be engaged, as well as your back, arms, and shoulders. Turning a steering wheel does require a certain amount of strength and effort.
Be aware of what is required and your own physical abilities. To accommodate different physical needs, there is equipment to support drivers with steering and using pedals. Help Guide recommends that you “choose a vehicle with automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes,” and that you “keep your car in good working condition with regularly scheduled maintenance.”
On the Road
To accommodate slower reaction times, try to take less busy roads. Avoid roads with heavy or fast-moving traffic, with many lanes. Try not to follow too closely, so as to accommodate any sudden stopping. If you’ve got passengers in the car, ask them to keep their conversations at a low volume and to not have any music or other distracting sounds in the vehicle. Pay attention to any flashing lights or sirens of emergency vehicles.
Treat Your Hearing Loss
If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing, it is important to take a hearing test. If a hearing loss is detected, we will work with you to find a solution that meets your needs.
If you currently treat your hearing loss with hearing aids, there are a number of features that could be useful to you while driving. For example, if you use wireless hearing aids that connect to a smartphone, you may be able to drive hands-free by streaming phone calls or GPS directions directly to your ears. Hearing aids also come with features to improve listening while in a vehicle, cutting back on wind sound and amplifying speech sounds.
To schedule a hearing test and to learn more about accommodating hearing loss, contact us at Fidelity Hearing Center today.