The influence of hearing loss on transport safety and mobility

Publisher's full text
Björn Lyxell
Björn Lidestam

Purpose: To examine how road users with different degree of hearing loss experience safety and mobility in transport situations, compared to road users with normal hearing.

Methods: A questionnaire study was conducted with participants recruited from the local branch of The Swedish hard of hearing society. A normal hearing control group, matched on age, gender and geographical location, was selected from a commercial database. The response rate was 35% (n = 194) in the group with Hearing Loss (HL) and 42% (n = 125) in the group with Normal Hearing (NH). The individuals with hearing loss were grouped into four groups according to the degree of their hearing loss (mild, moderate, severe and profound).

Results: Hearing loss affected some specific aspects regarding transport situations, while others remained unaffected. Individuals with hearing loss were not as likely to have a driving license, but for those who have, hearing loss had no effect on mileage per year. Loss of hearing had an effect on criteria for choosing mode of transportation, but in the aggregate, no difference between the groups could be shown in the distribution of how much each mode of transportation was used. With a few exceptions, hearing loss did not affect the ratings of importance of hearing for different transportation modes. Hearing loss affected most questions regarding hearing and driver abilities, while avoidance of specific traffic situations was not associated with hearing loss. Hearing loss had only minor effects on the factors causing inattention when driving, and on the interest in a warning system for driver inattention. The interest in a warning system for driver inattention was high regardless of hearing category.

Conclusions: Hearing loss influences the prevalence of driving license and criteria for choosing mode of transportation, however has no effect on the distribution of how much each mode of transportation was used. In general, in this study, respondents with higher degree of hearing loss were less concerned about the effect of hearing loss, indicating that they might be using coping strategies. The interest in warning system for inattention and the attitude towards strengthening of auditory information in traffic situations is high regardless of hearing category. This suggests further research on coping strategies and on design of support systems accessible for drivers with hearing loss. 

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