Effects of hearing loss on traffic safety and mobility

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Björn Lyxell
Björn Lidestam
Håkan Alm

The aim of this PhD thesis was to investigate traffic safety and mobility for individuals with hearing loss (HL). Three studies were conducted: 1. a questionnaire survey aimed to evaluate differences in choice of transportation that might be related to HL, 2. a driving simulator study that looked into compensatory strategies and evaluated the efficiency of a tactile signal to alert the driver, and 3. a field study to evaluate these effects in real traffic and to evaluate a navigation system with a supportive tactile signal. The effects of HL discovered in this thesis add to the knowledge and understanding of the influence of HL on traffic safety and mobility. Differences found consistently point to a generally more cautious behavior. Compensatory and coping strategies associated with HL are bound to driving complexity and appear when complexity increases. These strategies include driving at lower speeds, using a more comprehensive visual search behavior and being less engaged in distracting activities. Evaluation of a tactile signal showed that by adding a tactile modality, some driver assistance systems can also be made accessible to drivers with HL. At the same time, the systems might be more effective for all users, since the driver can be more focused on the road. Based on the results in this thesis, drivers with HL cannot be considered an increased traffic safety risk, and there should be no need for adjustments of the requirements of hearing for a license to drive a car.

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