What You Need to Know About Hearing Loss and Driving in BC
Though it may not be something that you think about, hearing loss can affect your driving. While driving primarily depends on your visual perception, being able to hear when driving helps you to better immerse yourself in your environment, which allows you to be more aware of your surroundings.
With more awareness of your environment, it’s quicker for you to react to everything that occurs around you when driving, such as a honking car or an approaching emergency vehicle. You may also be able to better detect vehicles in your blind spots or hidden motorcycles weaving between vehicles. After all, people often hear certain driving activities before they are able to see them.
We will take you through who the driving regulations regarding hearing loss affect, what the requirements for driving are for people with hearing loss in BC and what people with hearing loss can do to drive safely.
Regulations for driving with hearing loss
For safety reasons, Canada has regulations that require certain drivers to wear hearing aids when driving. Commercial drivers with hearing loss and a Class 2 or Class 4 driver’s licence, which are passenger bus operators or emergency vehicle operators, need to wear a hearing aid when driving these vehicles because they need to be able to communicate with others. People with hearing loss and a Class 1, Class 3 or Class 5 driver’s licence also need to wear a hearing aid if they transport dangerous goods.
According to the national standard in Canada, drivers do not need to wear a hearing aid when driving if they are able to pass the US FMCSA whisper test, which requires them to perceive a whispered voice from at least 1.5 metres away. Alternatively, drivers do not require a hearing aid when driving if their better ear is able to hear an average of at least 40 dB better than their other ear at 500, 1000, and 2000 Hz frequencies.
The province of BC does not use the US FMCSA whisper test, but the previously described hearing test where one ear is able to hear 40 dB better than the other is needed. Also, when registering for a driver’s licence or after experiencing a change in hearing ability, people with hearing loss need to submit an audiometric assessment from an otolaryngologist, audiologist or BC Ministry of Health hearing clinic.
Actions to improve safety when driving with hearing loss
To give yourself more time to react when driving, it’s always good to take caution and practice safe driving. This would include reducing your speed when you encounter challenging driving situations and keeping a safe distance from other vehicles.
It would also help to eliminate any noise or distractions by lowering the volume of the radio (or turning it off altogether), requesting any passengers to refrain from being too loud and making sure the windows are all closed to allow yourself to hear what is happening in and around your vehicle. By doing this, it would help you notice auditory cues, such as if you left your signal light on.
It helps to be attentive of your surroundings so that you are more aware of everything that is happening. You should view your mirrors often and watch for any flashing lights. You could also consider using a panoramic mirror to give yourself even more visibility.
Finally, you should check all of your equipment regularly. Regular vehicle check ups would reduce the likelihood that your vehicle emits faint sounds of trouble that you may not notice. It would also be good practice to check that your hearing aid is clean and has enough battery before driving your vehicle.
If you experience hearing loss, you may be required to wear a hearing aid when driving depending on the severity of the hearing loss. Even with hearing loss, you can take a number of actions yourself to maximize your safety.
Sometimes, it helps to receive help from a professional though. For audiometric assessments to get or maintain a driver’s licence in BC or for a thorough cleaning of your hearing aid, you can rely on the hearing experts at NexGen Hearing to provide the support that you need to stay on the road.