Automobile Features for People with Hearing Loss

Automobile Features for People with Hearing Loss

After reading about the interaction with Pontiac regarding their auto shows, Alfred Wolfe contacted me with a very provocative idea. He suggested that we use our budding relationship with this automaker to push for the installation of assistive devices at the factory. He suggested things like a jack on the sound system control panel for a head set, neck loop or assistive listening device, an induction loop that encompasses the entire car interior, induction loops in individual headrests, and even a form of automobile intercom. These sound to me like GREAT ideas, and we will certainly pursue them if we get the opportunity.

Alfred also provided some other bits of interesting automobile news. One is that GM no longer provides the emergency vehicle alerters that they used to provide. (For those who aren’t familiar with these, they were devices that provided a visual indication when they detected the sound of an emergency vehicle. They were previously available to people with hearing loss at no cost). They were discontinued because they were not completely reliable, sometimes indicating the presence of a non-existent emergency vehicle, and other times failing to warn of an actual vehicle. There is apparently some discussion of installing an improved version of these devices on ALL vehicles, but it doesn’t sound like it’ll happen real soon. Other vehicle manufacturers continue to offer the emergency vehicle alerters.

Another useful device that is available from GM and some other manufacturers is a turn signal alerter, which informs the driver when his turn signal has been on for a long time. Unfortunately, the alerting method is a loud noise, rather than some visual indicator. This is fine for hearing people and people with mild or moderate hearing loss, but it provides no benefit for people with more severe hearing loss.

Finally, it is possible to be reimbursed for other hearing loss devices on an individual basis. For example, Chrysler reimbursed a woman for the cost of a loop system that enabled her to hear her baby crying in the back seat.

Unfortunately, none of these programs is very well publicized, so few people take advantage of them. Next time you buy a new car, think about features that could assist you in dealing with your hearing loss. The automobile manufacturers may have those features available, or they may even reimburse you for ones you install yourself!

And if you get a chance, talk to people in the automobile industry about making more of these features standard and about doing a better job of publicizing their assistive programs.

Reader Response to Automobile Feature Story

March 2001

Editor: Eardogie responded to last week’s article regarding automobile features for people with hearing loss with the following comments. Note that his turn signal indicator has a visual output. Also, note that he has an audio backup indicator to warn (hearing) people when he is backing up.

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The turn indicator light flashes 4 bright dots when I forget to turn off my single indicator. I also have the emergency flasher that indicates approaching emergency vehicles and a backup beeper that alerts people I am backing up. This feature is used because there are lots of small children in my neighbor and a school a half block away. I am not able to hear so I want them to hear me. The children are aware of why I am that beeper and that they should not be in my drive playing.

Anyway, Ford also pays for these same devices.