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Behind the Wheel Take Care of Your Hearing

by Mark Nolan
4 minutes read

Every March International Hearing Day is celebrated, with the object of raising awareness of the importance of taking care of our hearing health. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO), in its latest Report on Deafness and Hearing Loss, warns that, if preventive measures are not adopted, in less than 30 years, the number of people with hearing problems could reach 900 million people. In addition, according to data from the Alain Afflelou company, in Spain alone, more than a million people suffer from hearing loss. According to the WHO, the number of people with hearing problems reaches 5% of the world population.

In addition, this data is especially important among those over 65 years of age, where it is estimated that a third of them produce a disabling hearing loss – hearing loss greater than 40dB in the ear with better hearing in adults, and greater than 30dB in the best hearing ear in children.

Hearing loss can be due to congenital causes – diseases such as rubella, infections during pregnancy or inappropriate use of medications – or acquired – either due to diseases, trauma or exposure to noise or simple aging.

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified noise pollution – one of the main sources of which is traffic – as the second biggest environmental problem in Europe – after air pollution by particles – with a proven impact on health: it causes stress, sleep problems, impaired cognitive abilities, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. According to the WHO, “one in five Europeans lives regularly exposed to noise levels that are harmful to health”. For its part, the European Environment Agency (EEA) affirms that exposure to high levels of noise “generates a high risk to human health” and estimates that in Europe it causes 16,000 premature deaths a year and causes stress for 32 million adults and sleep problems for another 13 million. EEA estimates that noise from road traffic, the main source of noise pollution, affects more than 100 million people across the continent, of which 73 million live in urban areas.

Regarding Spain, EEA establishes that excessive noise levels affect the health of 12 million people during the day and 9.5 million at night, and road traffic is responsible for 80% of noise pollution in cities.

Rules, hearing and driving

The DGT (section 2 of Annex IV of the Royal Decree on psychophysical aptitudes to obtain or renew a driving licence) establishes two levels of combined hearing loss index for the two groups of licences. Thus, it requires that to drive there must not be a combined hearing loss between the two ears, with or without a hearing aid, greater than 45% for group 1 (AM, A1, A-2, A, B, B + E and LCC) and more than 35% for group 2 (C1, C1 + E, C + E, D1, D1 + E, D, D + E), obtaining the index of this loss through audiometry.

In addition, when a sensory deficit occurs, the DGT requires a compensatory mechanism based on enhancing the capacity of other sensory areas, such as vision. In the case of hearing loss, the use of exterior rear-view mirrors and a panoramic one inside the car are mandatory. This increases the driver’s field of vision.

It also establishes that there should be no permanent evolutionary or intense balance alterations (vertigo, instability, dizziness, light-headedness) of otological or other origin.

Tips for the hearing impaired driver

Those who suffer from hearing problems and need to get behind the wheel:

– If you suffer from hearing loss and driving is part of your work activity, you should always check the arrangement and orientation of the rear-view mirrors of the vehicle you use to improve your field of vision and compensate for hearing loss.

– Avoid driving with the volume of the radio / music high, it will make it difficult to perceive the sounds emitted, both from the vehicle itself and from the outside.

– Drivers with hearing aids must respect the revisions and maintenance of the prostheses, avoiding that it may stop working or cause acoustic distortions. Before a change in the prostheses (different hearing aid model), avoid driving until you check that they adapt to the new one.

– After ear surgery, try not to drive for 3 to 4 weeks.

– Never drink alcoholic beverages while driving.

– Professional drivers on sick leave, or regular drivers at work, should know if they incur a legal problem while driving during the sick leave period.

– Patients undergoing treatment for balance disorders or dizziness should know that the medications prescribed for these pathologies can affect their ability to drive.

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