Why can’t I hear well in the car?
Some people find themselves asking their audiologist: “Why can’t I hear the kids/grandkids in the backseat when we’re in the car? They’re trying to tell me about their day or ask me questions, but all I can do is nod and smile. Is there anything I can do to hear better in the car?”
Hearing in the car is a very challenging listening environment. Speech-to-noise signals are less than optimal for speech understanding. Road noise such as the rumbling of the car, the tires on the pavement, plus the heat or A/C system can all add noise and make it hard to distinguish voices. We tend to have our own strategies to deal with all the noise, but sometimes they fail.
So what can you do to hear better in the car?
Firstly, try to minimise background noise:
- Keep windows closed
- Turn the radio down or off
- Avoid competing conversations at the same time
If that doesn’t help, then a hearing test is recommended. Difficulty hearing in noise is a common sign of hearing loss and a hearing test can help determine if that is the cause of your struggles hearing in the car.
If a hearing loss is found, there are many solutions to help, including hearing aids, of course. Hearing aids are designed to improve speech recognition and/or listening effort in noisy conditions where talkers are located behind or beside the listener. Hearing aids provide a clearer speech signal and help reduce ambient noise in relation to speech. This makes it easier to hear others in the car — and all the other places where you’re having trouble hearing.
Technology exists where certain hearing aids, like Starkey’s Livio AI hearing aids, even have a special Car Mode. The Livio AI hearing aid senses when you’re traveling over 16km/h and automatically adjusts your hearing aids to adapt to the sounds of driving.
Contents of the blog originally appeared on https://www.starkey.com/blog/articles/2021/04/difficult-hearing-in-cars