In the car

April 15, 2016

Dans la voiture

According to hearing-impaired people, communication in a car is one of the most difficult listening situations. There is a lot of noise in a car (e.g., engine noise, tires on the road, ventilation system, radio, wind noise, rain, and wipers). Those noises cover speech, both for hearing impaired-people and people with good hearing. When a hearing-impaired person is driving, they cannot easily rely on visual speech cues like lip movements, facial expressions, or gestures to help with understanding, and can only rely on what they hear.

A study by Meston et al. has shown that car trips are a good opportunity for important or more personal conversations. Hearing-impaired study participants reported feeling frustrated, embarrassed, or left out when they were unable to understand a conversation while driving, hence the importance of using effective strategies for improving communication and making the driving experience more enjoyable.

For hearing-impaired people

Before leaving:

  • If passengers are not aware of your hearing difficulties, inform them.
  • Check your route.
  • Print a copy of your route and give it to your navigator so they can give you directions.
  • Leave ahead of time to avoid the stress of being late.
  • If you are driving with multiple passengers, ask the person you will be talking to the most to sit in front with you.
  • If you are a passenger, sit beside the person you will be talking to the most.

In the car:

  • Wait for a stop or a red light to ask for details about the route.
  • When you want to talk, reduce the noise and eliminate distractions:
    • Turn down the ventilation system (air conditioning or heating) or turn it off.
    • Turn down the radio or turn it off.
    • Close the car windows.
  • If you have hearing aids, use them:
    • Ask your navigator to wear the microphone compatible with your hearing aids.
    • Ask your navigator to use the microphone of your personal amplifier.
  • If needed, park your car in a safe place if you need to have an important conversation.

For conversation partners

  • If a hearing-impaired person is driving and a situation arises where they need more concentration, avoid:
    • Non-essential conversations
    • Making unnecessary noises
  • Talk a little more loudly, without yelling.
  • Repeat what was misunderstood.
  • Use short and simple sentences.
  • If the hearing-impaired person has an external microphone or a personal amplifier connected to their hearing aids, use it to facilitate communication.

When you give directions to hearing-impaired people:

  • Be as concise as you can.
  • Take advantage of when the car is stopped to give directions, and give them a little ahead of time.
  • Give visual indicators by pointing in the direction to go.
  • If needed, suggest parking the car in a safe place to have a conversation.