Being able to drive is an important part of maintaining your independence and quality of life regardless of your age. However, as we get older certain age-related changes do make it more difficult to do certain things. For instance, most seniors say that they are concerned about being unable to drive. This isn’t surprising when you discover that automobile crashes are one of the leading causes of death among the elderly – a risk that increases among people, who have hearing loss.
Research on Seniors’ Driving and Health
Seniors face a lot of different issues that make it more dangerous for them to drive a car such as the loss of cognitive functioning, intact coordination, vision, and motor control as well as their growing inability to maintain attention. Studies on seniors and these health impairments show that when a person’s hearing and vision (or a combination of the two) become impaired the person is more likely to face cognitive decline. If this cognitive decline happens to be significant then it’ll diminish their ability to perform while they’re behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, today there’s between 9 – 17% of older drivers who are suffering from dual sensory impairment. This places these seniors at a much higher risk for getting into a motor vehicle accident in which they, or another party, get injured. When it comes to car accidents that are fatalities, one study looked at 100,000 drivers who were over the age of 85. In doing so they found that 34% of men and 12% of women are likely to get into such accidents. This is particularly noteworthy when you consider that in 2017 there were 44 million licensed drivers who were 65 and older. By 2025 some believe that seniors will make up 25% of the driving population. As such, we must take things like hearing loss seriously so that we’re able to protect everyone who is driving on our roads today.
Driving and Your Senses
Whenever you’re considering driving as a senior it’s important to take your primary senses (hearing and vision) into consideration. If these things grow moderately to severely impaired it’ll result in safety concerns. For instance, if your visual field and contrast sensitivity become impaired you’ll have more issues than if you were suffering from hearing loss alone. Once you start having dual sensory impairment you’re at an even greater risk of getting into an accident while you’re driving.
When someone suffers from hearing loss it can be difficult for them to identify warning signals while they’re driving. This is why some automobile manufacturers are developing innovations to help people. For instance, Hyundai has created alerting devices that provide people with visual and tactile cues for things like emergency vehicles, accident avoidance, and the distance between obstacles. They also have a prototype that has colored LEDs and vibrational points on the steering wheel to provide drivers with navigational information.
Audiologists have the opportunity to discuss driving safety and hearing loss with seniors. This is important, especially regarding driving safety, which is why many of them are now including a self-assessment for this with their intake forms. Knowing that a senior has this concern allows the audiologist to share helpful resources with them so that they can maintain their independence even after they’re no longer able to drive safely.
Clearly, we can agree that driving a vehicle while suffering from hearing loss can be dangerous. If you think that you’re having an issue with your hearing contact Countryside Hearing Aid Services in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, and Oldsmar, FL, to get it checked today.
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