Honk If You Hear Me! Three Tips on Hearing and Driving

86 year old woman driving her car

Get routine hearing checks, limit noise, and use your vision to stay safe in the driver's seat.

Honking horns, emergency vehicle sirens and engines: what do all of these sounds have in common? You need to hear all of them while driving. Safe driving relies on good vision and good hearing. Our ability to hear something before we see it helps us respond more quickly to potential danger.

But over time, our hearing may diminish. We might start to miss cues that we used to hear. According to the National Institutes of Health, hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults. It can be difficult to recognize, and it can be dangerous, too—especially when in or near traffic.


Live a longer, healthier life by taking control of your safety today!

May is Older Americans Month. Its 2014 theme is Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow. May is also Better Hearing and Speech Month. Here are three ways you can stay ahead of the curve when it comes to your hearing health.

  1. Get routine hearing evaluations. Schedule a hearing evaluation with your healthcare provider or audiologist if you suspect you have hearing loss. It's never too early to get your hearing checked. Be alert to changes in your hearing. If your audiologist suggests a hearing aid, give yourself time to get used to it before getting behind the wheel.
  2. Limit the noise in your vehicle. Lower the fan on your air conditioning and heating and turn down the volume on your radio or other device while driving. Sometimes conversation with passengers can interfere with outside sounds. If you find it distracting, ask them to keep the conversation to a minimum.
  3. Julie Lee directs the largest driver improvement course in America designed for drivers age 50 and older.

    Use your vision. More often than not, our hearing first alerts us to danger on the roadways. But if your hearing has diminished, you may rely more heavily on your vision when driving. Make sure to adjust your left and right side-view mirrors to observe traffic around you. Consider getting a wide rearview mirror. Remain alert for the flashing lights of emergency vehicles and watch for trains and railroad warnings at crossings. Also, get in the habit of checking your turn signal indicator on the dashboard to make sure you don’t leave it in the "on" position.

For more tips on how to stay safe and save money, consider taking the AARP Smart Driver Course—available in a classroom and online, in both English and Spanish. In Washington state, you are also eligible for an insurance discount upon completion of the classroom course (not the online course). Consult your insurance agent for details.

Contributor Julie E. Lee is vice-president and national director of AARP Driver Safety. For more information, visit www.aarp.org/safedriving or call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669).