Tips for driving with hearing loss

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The United States has a higher rate of hearing loss than most people realize. Nearly 10% of all drivers suffer from some form of hearing loss today. The AARP states that 33% of older people have some hearing loss. This percentage is doubled for those 75 years and older.

The life of someone with hearing loss can be more difficult than it is for others. Driving is one of these activities.

It is a common belief that deaf and hard-of hearing people cannot drive safely. But the truth is quite different. There are deaf truck drivers today, which proves that hearing loss doesn’t have any effect on your ability to drive safely. It is possible to drive with hearing loss. However, it has been proven that drivers with impaired hearing are more likely to be distracted behind the wheel.

Fortunately, technology and development have made it possible for those with hearing impairments to drive safely. Bankrate has provided some additional tips.

Driving for the hard-of-hearing

These tips can help you get home safely if you have hearing loss.

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How to prepare for driving

A visor card is a must.

visor card can be used to inform policy enforcement about the driver’s hearing loss. These cards contain several graphics and traffic-related imagery you can point at, which will allow you to communicate better with others.

Two versions are available:

  • Deaf Visor Card: For those who identify with Deaf communities and communicate using American Sign Language (ASL), the Deaf Visor Card is for them.
  • The Hard of Hearing Visor Card is for people who identify with the hearing community. These drivers rely on speechreading and hearing aids in addition to spoken English.

Get the license.

Several municipalities allow for special concessions and modifications for drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing, such as teenage drivers who can be easily distracted.

Avoid interacting with other drivers.

When you have difficulty hearing, communication can be slower. This is especially true if you need to sign or read lips. Don’t allow other drivers to sign or read your lips while driving. Instead, focus on driving safely.

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Plan.

Plan ahead is one of the best ways you can stay safe. Share your destination and route with someone you love, as well as estimated arrival and departure times. If something should happen, make sure someone is there to help you.

View a training video.

Before you drive, take a look at this training video by the ACLU. This video contains important tips and demonstrations that show how to handle traffic stops when you’re hard of hearing or deaf.

What to do if your car is pulled over

When you are stopped by police, remain calm and follow the officer’s instructions.

  1. The visor card should always be kept handy. It should be clipped to your helmet so you can quickly grab it in an emergency.
  2. Show the visor card.
    Place your visor card on the steering wheel, where it will be visible. Point to your visor card when the officer approaches your car and inform him that you are hard-of-hearing or deaf.
  3. Use pen and paper.
    You shouldn’t assume that an officer will always have pen and paper. Keep a few spare blank notepads and extra pens handy in case of an emergency.
  4. Follow the instructions.
    Be attentive to the officer and follow his instructions. Failure to comply could be considered resisting arrest, and could result in a serious miscommunication.
  5. Communicate.
    Let the officer know if you have any questions or are unsure of anything. Tell the officer that you are hard of hearing or deaf and ask them to write down any communication so that you can better understand.
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Safe driving tips

There are tips to help you avoid being pulled over or involved in an accident if you are hard of hearing or deaf.

  • Get regular vision checks.
    Your eyesight is vital when you have difficulty hearing. Take care of your eyes! Your vision should be checked by your optometrist every six months. Also, make sure you adjust your prescriptions as needed.
  • Maintain your car in top shape.
    Regular car maintenance is a good idea. Pay close attention to your vehicle. While most drivers are familiar with taking their car to the shop if they hear unusual noises, you might not be aware of these sounds. This is why it is important to be extra cautious about car maintenance and repair.
  • Make sure you invest in the best mirrors.
    Special mirrors are available to improve your vision while driving. Buy extra-wide side-view lenses that are wider than normal to allow for better viewing of blind spots around your vehicle.
  • Make use of AI technologies.
    Many new technologies have emerged in the Digital Age, including talk-to-text (or spoken notifications) and other revolutionary technologies. Others are going even further. Hyundai, for example, can identify outside noises and communicate them with the driver using its Audio-Visual Conversion(AVC) or Audio-Tactile Conversion(ATC). EyeSight by Subaru is another program that monitors traffic movements and lane departments. Many manufacturers today have collision-avoidance technology to reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes each year.
  • Rely on your visual cues.
    If you are unable to benefit from auditory cues your eyes become even more important. You should pay particular attention to visual cues. Search for emergency lights and identify them, including the flashing lights from an emergency vehicle or the hazard lights in nearby passenger cars.
  • Your GPS should be easily accessible.
    Your GPS navigation system is one of your most valuable tools on the road. Make sure it is visible. It should be mounted somewhere that is easy to see and does not interfere with your view of traffic, such as near your dashboard. You can adjust settings in many programs to accommodate those with hearing loss.
  • You might also consider Bluetooth aids.
    Bluetooth hearing aids are now available to help you be safer on the roads if you have difficulty hearing. Bluetooth hearing aids sync with your GPS and use your vehicle’s stereo system to give you turn-by-turn directions.
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Know your rights

Many kinds of legislation and laws are available to help the hard-of-hearing community.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Perhaps the most comprehensive piece in legislation protecting deaf or hard of hearing people is the ADA. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives people who are hard of hearing or deaf the same rights as everyone else. “Law enforcement agencies should make every effort to ensure their personnel can communicate effectively with persons with hearing impairments. This is true for both civilian and sworn personnel.”

The ADA protects drivers by preventing insurance companies increasing insurance costs due to hearing loss. Although it doesn’t stop drivers from increasing their rates, the ADA provides basic protections that will ensure you aren’t discriminated against just because you have hearing loss.

Adaptive Driving Program

The Adaptive Driving Program provides support for people who are hard of hearing or deaf. You can get permit test tutoring and exclusive driver’s education materials. Many drivers modify their cars with technology or devices that increase driver safety. The Adaptive Driving Program has many resources to assist them. This program is only available in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts.

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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (IDEA), provides support for young people, providing free and age-appropriate services starting at birth. These services can include hearing aids that are administered by the student’s schools, as well as educational support that can be especially useful for teens driving.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

This law ensures that people with disabilities are not discriminated against for being hard of hearing. This legislation covers all federal programs and activities and requires that they provide reasonable accommodation, including transportation, interpreters, or assistive devices.

Hearing Loss Association of America

HLAA offers regular events and educational programs that support hearing loss. You will also find a complete listing of all the state chapters and any other local organizations that could help you in your area.

Support for translators

Many apps are specifically made for people with hearing impairments. These apps will help you communicate clearly if you’re pulled over.

Program NameCompatibilityCostDescription
InnoCaption+Android, AppleNo costInnocaption is funded by the FCC and will offer real-time captioning supported by live stenographers.
SpeechTransAndroid, Apple, DesktopNo costText translation and text-to-speech with integration for more than 1,000 apps.
RogervoiceAndroid, AppleNo costGet real-time subtitles in over 100 languages for your phone, video and verbal communication.
Sound AlertsAndroid, AppleNo costYou can teach your phone to detect everyday sounds so that you don’t miss any alerts when it is in detection mode.
SoundPrintAndroid, AppleNo costYelp is similar to Yelp in that you can quickly find local establishments by filtering by noise level. Filtering between very loud and quiet.

Bottom line

Driving is an option for the approximately 48 million Americans with hearing loss. Technology and education have enabled new developments and improvements that make it possible for drivers to be safe on the roads, no matter how severe or partial their hearing loss may be.

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The 2021 Legislature provides many resources and tools for businesses and services to educate on the challenges of hearing loss. There are also several new apps and services that incorporate new features and programs to improve the lives of the hard-of-hearing community.

Accessories such as visor cards and pen and paper can provide drivers with the support they need. This will allow them to communicate effectively with law enforcement officers and other drivers.

Driving is not one of the many challenges associated with hearing loss.