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How I’m learning to drive despite my hearing loss

learning to drive despite my hearing loss

It’s a common myth that deaf people cannot drive…

Can a driver with hearing loss hear another car’s honking? What about ambulance sirens? Does the noise of the car make it even more difficult for a deaf driver to hear their passengers?

I had many worries about my hearing loss affecting my ability to drive, so when I signed up for driving lessons, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But now that I’m learning how to drive, I’m really enjoying it!

It’s true that driving is difficult and there is so much to take in, but I assume even a normal hearing person feels like this. And what I’ve discovered is that learning how to drive is achievable with a hearing loss.

My process of learning how to drive with hearing loss begins with my deaf-aware driving instructor.

I’ve found his teaching style to be brilliant for my hearing loss. My learning style is listening, but having speech broken up with visual images or by actual demonstrations is even better for me to understand. My instructor has adopted this teaching style, which has helped so much!

As I am profoundly deaf and rely heavily on lip-reading, my instructor also has to use hand signs to give instructions (i.e. left turn, clutch down) while driving. As I don’t sign myself, it has been a lot to take on board within the two hour lessons, but I think it will definitely be worth it when I know how to drive – and also pick up a bit of sign language!

My first driving lesson was quite scary, but interesting at the same time. Being in control of a car is an unreal experience. It’s quite hard to describe. I can see that sense of freedom and independence that will come in the future once I can drive by myself.

All of my friends in the UK started learning as soon as they turned 17, but I’ve waited until now, as a 19-year-old. I felt as though the pressure of my studies (sixth form) when I was 17 would have an impact on learning how to drive. Back then, I didn’t want the added stress, plus I wasn’t earning enough money at the time to pay for lessons. Driving is seen as a trendy thing to do at that age, but it comes with serious risks and responsibility, so… my advice is to do things when you’re ready, not because everyone’s doing it!

So what about the honking, and sirens? My instructor told me it doesn’t really matter because deaf drivers will be able to see the flashing lights. Also, my parents told me that it’s not actually a bad thing if you can’t hear people honking at you! Maybe it just requires a little extra attentiveness. 

Along with my practical driving lessons, I’m learning theory as well, and some of it is harder than I thought! Some of the questions are meant to be common sense but they’re not. For example, if your car catches fire in a tunnel, you would want to get out right? The answer is; keep driving!

I’ll keep you updated on how my deaf driving lessons go! If you have any stories of driving with hearing loss that you’d like to share, please comment them below!

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Ellie Parfitt
Ellie was born profoundly deaf, uses verbal communication, lipreads and wears Phonak hearing aids. She is currently learning British Sign Language. Ellie hasn’t let her disability stand in the way and embraces every new challenge. Her deafness didn't prevent her from achieving major accomplishments in her life, such as excelling in her education, working as a Marketing Executive for a Spa & Health Club, Events and Promotions Staff for a local newspaper as well as blogging for Hearing Like Me. She is passionate about deaf awareness, campaigning for equality and helping others through her personal blog as Deafie Blogger.

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