Finding it hard to hear things when driving?

There are few things more enjoyable than a casual and relaxed afternoon or weekend drive with a friend or loved one.

Feel the breeze, see the sights and enjoy some good conversation… unless of course you have hearing loss.

If you do have hearing loss, that pleasant afternoon drive can be a frustrating experience that is punctuated by a endless stream of comments along the lines of,

“Sorry, what did you say again?”

“I missed that last thing you said, can you repeat it?”

Difficulty hearing while driving is a very common issue for people with hearing difficulties (even mild cases of hearing impairment can cause driving hearing challenges). 

While it can impact conversations between two people in the front seat, it is even worse if you’re trying to hear what people (kids or perhaps your grandchildren) in the backseat are saying.

So what causes this, beyond the hearing loss itself of course?

First, as someone’s hearing deteriorates, it is natural that that person will progressively start to rudimentarily read people’s lips to a small degree so as to better understand what is being said in conversations.

(Most people have no idea that they have developed this skill/ talent).

When you’re out for that drive you’re focusing on the road, not other peoples lips, so your lip reading abilities cannot supplement your hearing loss and your cognition decreases accordingly.

The second contributing factor to this dilemma is something we like to refer to as auditory overload. 

When you have hearing loss it makes it difficult to discern one sound from another because your ability to filter sounds diminishes. 

In an environment where multiple sounds are present again, hearing any one thing becomes more difficult. 

For most people cars are probably the biggest cacophony of sounds that they’ll experience on a day to day basis since cars (and roads) are chocked full of these auditory distractions.

Everything from the sound of the engine engine, the turning signals, wind buffeting from open windows, other vehicles on the road, horns, the car radio and so on.

So what can you do about it?

First, the obvious steps you should take are to close car windows (but then you’ll have to turn on the air conditioning or heat, so that fan will be another sound you have to contend with) and turn down the music. 

Beyond that, speak with a doctor of audiology and get your hearing tested. 

Your audiologist can actually customize a setting on your hearing aids specifically for when you are driving to help you hear better and get back to enjoying those afternoon and weekend drives.