Pull over!

Nick pointed me to an interesting post from Michael Buffington. He thought, “I assume deaf people are allowed to drive without restriction – so why do ‘in ear’ headphone manufacturers make sure you know that they shouldn’t be used while driving because they impair your hearing – what specific issues might you run into that would make not hearing a serious or life threatening disadvantage while driving?”
When I listen to music, to songs I know by heart, I sometimes lose focus on my work as I have to concentrate to follow along with the words. Maybe this is effortless for those born with hearing. So I can imagine listening to a conversation through the headphone might have a similar effect because it’s a two way conversation unlike music.
In the two times I got pulled over, I had no trouble quickly noticing the cop. It’s a mixture of hearing the sirens and noticing the lights. Sometimes I see one and not hear the other, sometimes vice versa, and others both.
For a brief time, I had a device that blinked whenever sirens were near. It didn’t last long because lots of things made the danged thing blink and scared the bejeebus out of me. No thanks. I’ll stick with my trusty eyes. However, Michael came up with an innovative idea that might work because the notification would come from the cop instead of whatever environment sounds pop in.


    • alicia on May 24, 2005 at 11:02 am
    • Reply

    Meryl, I agree with you about using your ‘trusty eyes’. I think it all boils down to how you are attuned to your environment. Deaf people are used to not depending on sound to be aware of what’s happening around them, so they are more visually sensitive to danger. Hearing people, though, do depend on sound and so when environmental awareness via sound is taken away, their sensitivity to danger is much lower than that of a deaf person.
    Of course, there are exceptions. If someone was recently deafened, then it will take a while for them to develop that visual sensitivity. Or, if someone usually depends on hearing aids or cochlear implants but find they don’t function as well in noisy car environments, that can be a factor.
    Once I was driving with a friend who grew up with some hearing and then, after it deteriorated further, got an cochlear implant (which she loves). We were chatting, and I looked in the mirror and saw a police car was right behind me, lights flashing, yet she hadn’t even noticed. This was an odd feeling for me as deaf passengers usually are great about keeping an eye on things as we converse (two sets of eyes working together make for a safer trip).
    Ultimately I think it’s more an attention issue and not related to hearing level. Hearing drivers on cell phones or with headphones really shouldn’t be compared to deaf drivers. But they CAN be compared to deaf drivers who are typing away on their pagers! 🙂

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