When you are in your vehicle, can you hear...
Ever since Henry Ford made the automobile affordable for the average U.S. wage earner, America has had a love affair with the automobile. Pleasant memories are associated with that four wheeled wonder--the thrill of driving as a youth and the last grasp of mobility independence in old age.
Due to the fact that the average motorist spends a great deal of time daily in an automobile, good hearing and its importance in driving are taken for granted until it's too late.
Today, automobile manufacturers take pride in the quality of a "quiet" ride which shields the driver and passengers from outside noises. With more and more computer based, state-of-the-art electronics, mechanical parts such as turn signal relays have become so faint that they are virtually undetectable in some vehicles.
And then there is the problem of attempting to carry on a conversation in a car while driving or riding.
There are a number of Accessolutions to these situations.
Outside noise is reduced due to the "soundproofness" of today's cars. A major obstacle is the ability to hear the siren of an approaching emergency vehicle especially at intersections where a visual signal would not be seen until both vehicles are too close.
The number of accidents annually involving emergency vehicles and passenger cars and trucks is increasing at an alarming rate. One reason given is that more and more people with a hearing loss are driving without amplification. But even with a hearing aid, many vehicles are so soundproof that emergency sirens are not easily heard.
Currently there are no manufacturers of systems that listen for sirens.
Carrying on a conversation in an automobile may be one of the most difficult tasks for a hearing impaired person, especially when driving or when talking to the driver.
Many who have difficulty hearing rely heavily on lip reading, so the tendency is to turn to look directly at the person speaking and reflexively turn when responding. If the driver's eyes are busy reading lips, who's watching the road? One solution that reduces head movement, yet still requires eye movement, is a wide angle rearview mirror which allows the driver to see people to the right and in the back seat without turning around. This can be found at larger auto parts stores and some discount stores.
If the person who needs or wants to hear better with less effort wears a hearing aid, and if that hearing aid has direct audio input capability, a simple solution is the addition of an external microphone with extension cord and boot. The cord is connected to the direct audio input on the hearing aid and the microphone to the other end. The microphone can be passed from person to person as they speak or it can be clipped to a visor or the seat back in a central position.
If your hearing aid has direct audio input, ask your hearing aid dispenser about availability or call HARC 's Customer Service Department.
Note: If your hearing aid does not have direct audio input but does have a "T" (telephone) switch, the solutions to be described for people who don't have a hearing aid will work with your hearing aid by using an induction neckloop or induction silhouette in place of the headset or earbuds and switching your hearing aid to the "T" position.
If you don't wear a hearing aid or your aids don't have direct audio input, there are ways to prepare your vehicle for better listening. The least costly method is the use of a hardwired personal amplifier. It is battery operated and uses either a lightweight headset or earbuds. Induction neckloops or silhouettes are used for listening if hearing aid is equipped with T-switch.
The amplifier has a detachable microphone with an extension cord, similar to the microphone with extension cord used with direct audio input. The microphone can be passed to and from each person as they talk or can be located on a visor or some other central area within the vehicle. The user can then adjust the volume to a comfortable listening level. This way greater attention can be given to driving. (See Pocketalker in Assistive Devices)
Another available option is the use of a portable personal FM system, which is a wireless miniature radio broadcast system consisting of a microphone/transmitter and a receiver/amplifier. To listen, the user would use a lightweight headset, earbuds, induction neckloop or silhouette, or even a hearing aid direct audio input patch cord attached to the receiver/amplifier. We don't recommend occluding or covering both ears. Awareness of ambient sounds is required for safety.
The microphone/transmitter, being wireless, can be easily used by anyone in the vehicle. It can be handheld or positioned on a visor or some central area of the car. It picks up a speaker's voice and transmits via radio signal to the listener's receiver/amplifier which can be adjusted to a comfortable listening level. (See Personal FM Systems.)
Bonus: Both systems are portable and have use applications outside of the vehicle when traveling or for other day to day activities. For example, the FM transmitter can be given to tour guides, field trip leaders, lecturers or used at meetings or movies. Either system can be used at home for TV listening or general conversation.
For those with cellular car phones, there are some products to aid in their use.
Some people have difficulty knowing when the phone rings. There is a vibrator "pen" which can be worn in a pocket. It senses the "handshake" signal from the cellular phone and, in turn, will activate by vibrating to let you know a call is coming in. It can sense calls within one to three feet of the phone, depending on the phone's power. The downside is if there is a lot of nearby cellular traffic, false triggering might occur.
Cellular Phone "Pen" Vibrator
Looks like a ball point pen
Part # MG-EL601 $39.95
Cellular phones are not hearing aid compatible and, because they are considered radios, are not required to be like all other telephone sets.
Amplification for cellular phones is difficult as well. Some phones have volume controls, but even full volume usually isn't loud enough for someone with a hearing loss.
Likewise, the use of an acoustically coupled TTY with a cellular phone is possible with the limiting factor being whether the style/shape of the cellular phone will fit the acoustic coupler of the TTY. Some new TTY styles will adjust to the larger cell phones. However, it is highly unlikely that the portable handheld style units will work with any TTY acoustically.
There are a number of adapters for use with a cell phone to amplify the sound or connect to a TTY that use the 2.5mm hands free headset jack of a cell phone. (See Cell Phone Amplifiers and Accessories )
Auto back-up light bulb with self-contained beeper Sounds "beep-beep" whenever your car is in reverse Do-it-yourself installation - simply replaces your existing back-up light bulb; lasts twice as long Use on cars, light trucks, minivans, RVs Specify make and model of vehicle when ordering
Part # DT-20100 $28.50
At night, seeing a map or checking directions can be difficult as is keeping track of the ever elusive flashlight. The dash light helps illuminate the car's interior by plugging into the cigarette lighter. This bright little handheld light is fully charged and ready to go. This unit can also be helpful in the dark when adjusting other items in the car.
Part # HAC-DL3 $14.95
These ideas are only a few of the ways assistive and alerting products can help you in your day-to-day life. Take the time to think about how the ability to hear is taken for granted and how important better hearing is. Ignoring hearing loss makes a potential hazard on the road not only to you, but especially to others, both in and outside the car.
That's not to say that having normal hearing automatically makes you a better driver. It is saying that even if you have honed your other senses to compensate for your hearing loss or deafness, there is technology available to assist you. As a safe, conscientious driver you should avail yourself of its benefits.
If you know, think, or if others have suggested, that you might have difficulty hearing, we recommend that you see a hearing health care professional and have a painless hearing check. You need to know. Even if a hearing aid might not be right for you currently, consider using the devices described in this series to make your life better and safer to everyone.