Hearing impairment is an issue that afflicts millions of Americans and is only more likely to occur as the general population ages. By 2040, one in five Americans will be above 65, the age at which a third of people have some form of hearing loss. There are plenty of myths and misconceptions about driving with hearing loss.
It can be demoralizing to think that driving – an essential part of many of our day-to-day lives – may be affected by your inability to hear clearly.
In this article, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions, address some misconceptions, and let you know how to get assistance for this common concern.
Can Deaf and Hard of Hearing People Drive in the US?
In short – yes. People who are deaf or hard of hearing are generally able to drive in the United States.
What do the Terms Deaf or Hard of Hearing Mean?
The terms deafness and hard of hearing are scales on the hearing loss spectrum. Deafness is often caused by a specific condition and may be present from birth. According to the World Health Organisation, it indicates profound hearing loss, in which sign language may be used to communicate.
Hard of hearing is a term that describes individuals with mild to severe hearing loss. In day-to-day life, people who are hard of hearing may use hearing aids and other assistive devices to aid communication.
Anyone with trouble hearing below the normal threshold of 20dB (or better) is said to have some hearing loss.
The Rules on Driving For People with Hearing Loss
As mentioned above, deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals can drive in all fifty states. You may, however, be required to report your condition to the DMV, and they may include a requirement for hearing aids or full-view mirrors.
In some interstate commercial operations (trucking, drivers for hire), the National Association of the Deaf is pushing to allow deaf drivers to pursue jobs in the industry without passing a DOT hearing test. Other commercial operations may have no such requirement.
Implications of Driving With Hearing Loss
Many hearing-impaired people can drive safely and respond to situations on the road suitably and without incident. Still, there remains a stigma around driving with hearing loss. But despite assumptions that it may inhibit the ability to drive safely, this is usually not the case.
In the past, this assumption has led to unfair treatment of hearing-impaired drivers,
The truth is that an inability to hear generally leads individuals to be more attentive to their surroundings when driving. Deaf people may also have better peripheral vision and reaction times when compared to hearing adults.
State laws that contend with listening to loud music while driving – which inevitably impairs the ability to hear – also often have more to do with noise disturbance than their role in distracting drivers.
Common Sounds that affect Drivers
Even though hearing loss may not necessarily impact drivers’ safety and competence – there are certain sounds on the roads that hard-of-hearing drivers might want to ensure they can hear for peace of mind.
Audiological devices, such as hearing aids, can assist with this – as well as help fulfill specific DMV requirements. Higher-end hearing models usually offer settings specifically tailored to use while driving, ensuring you stay safe on the road.
Here are common sounds you need to hear while driving:
- Sirens – The inability to hear a siren, whether law enforcement, an ambulance, or a road maintenance vehicle, is a common concern. Drivers should look out for flashing lights and use their full-view mirrors to assess the problem.
- Indicators – Indicators typically make a quiet clicking sound, which even those with normal hearing may struggle to notice over the sound of the engine. As with sirens, hearing-impaired drivers may rely on visual clues instead.
- Horns – Hearing other cars’ horns is essential for safety reasons. A honking horn can warn you of dangers you may not otherwise notice.
- GPS – Someone with hearing loss may not be able to hear GPS instructions. This means you may have to rely on visual maps instead. Some automobiles can project a map and directions onto the windshield for a clear view without looking down.
Well-fitted and professionally adjusted hearing aids can help you hear everything you need to so you can continue to drive confidently and safely.
What should I do if I’m experiencing Hearing Loss?
A consultation with a hearing professional will help to assess whether your hearing loss is part of a general trend with age or the symptom of an underlying issue.
They’ll also be able to assist you with ways of managing this common condition – including treatments such as hearing aids – and provide you with further information about driving with hearing loss.
Whatever your hearing concerns, to book a comprehensive consultation in the Las Vegas area, look to Hearing Associates of Las Vegas.