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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Renewing My Driver's License

My driver's license was just about to expire, so I thought I'd better head over today to the DMV to get my renewal. Since there's a branch in my neighborhood, I didn't give it much thought. I assumed they'd be open on a Saturday. Wrong! I was so mad when I found that out at 10:05. I had taken my time getting ready and had dragged my son with me so he could get an idea of what to expect when it's his turn to get a driver's license. I thought it would be a good life lesson. Listening to mom swearing wasn't the life lesson I had in mind, though. We both had a chuckle over that later.

Meanwhile I had to rush back home and look online to find the next closest branch open on a Saturday. By this time it was 10:10. I found one about a half hour drive away that was open until noon and we headed off. When we didn't find it where we thought it should be my son urged me to pull over at a gas station and ask for directions. It felt like we were in the Amazing Race for a moment. Fortunately someone inside the gas station knew right where it was at and we weren't far away.

Pulling into the nearly full parking lot should have clued me in that this place was busy. The line to the door stretched past several other storefronts in the strip mall. We got into line noting the time was now 10:45. A few minutes later, a man came out asking that all the people who needed to take a written test come with him. Did I have to take a written test? I wasn't sure. It had been 8 years since my last renewal. I hadn't studied up on the rules of the road or anything. Uh oh. The man reiterated if you need to take a written test or even think you might, then come now. When he put it like that, I decided to go.

This moved us up near the front of the line. When it was my turn, the clerk said I needed a vision test only and handed me a number. I was so glad she didn't send me to the back of the line. Then we took our seats in a huge waiting room. There were probably a hundred people already seated. The time was 11:00.

This facility knew how to process people quickly. I was very impressed how deaf friendly the setup was. There was a large screen (almost as big as the kind in airport terminals) that showed which numbers were currently being served. Each counter had its own smaller screen that would post the number being served there as well. When the next person's turn came an announcement was made over the loudspeaker in a low pitched female voice which I could hear thankfully. Even so I continued to keep my eye on the screen so I wouldn't miss my turn. I had brought a book to read but hearing the numbers called off in a steady stream and looking up at the screen distracted me too much to concentrate on my book.

After 40 minutes my number was posted. I practically ran up to the window, greeting the clerk with a sunny smile and enthusiastic "Good morning!" I handed over my old license and then had to answer the tricky questions of height and weight. At that point my son was very willing to be helpful and provide the information I generally fudge on a bit. Drat!

Just when the clerk was finishing up my paperwork, I said, "Wait a minute." The words hearing aid had caught my eye on the piece of paper. I asked the clerk about it and told her I wear two hearing aids. She checked the box and said it added a restriction to my license. I told her I hoped that marking it would help a police officer to know I would need him to speak loud and clearly to me. She nodded and then added an apology for not realizing to ask me about hearing aids. I waved that off saying, "I doubt you see that many people my age wearing them."

Then it was time to pay and pose for my photo. Smile! The camera flashed and a minute later I had my new driver's license. We had finished the process at 11:55. Phew.

My question for you is does your driver's license state that you wear hearing aids? I'm asking because sometimes I actually don't wear mine in the car. Usually for one of two reasons: my hair is still damp from my shower or on highways the road noise that my hearing aids pick up is very loud. Now I suppose I have got to wear my hearing aids every time I drive. What do you think?


PinkLAM said...

Sarah- Besides thec newly-added hearing aid restriction, do you have anything about that you have a hearing loss and/or communication difficulties? I'm not 16 yet, but when I went to apply for my permit there was a box that you could check off for deafness or communication issues. The Driver's Ed instructor said it was only for people who were completely deaf, and/or could not speak. She wasn't sure if I needed to check if off (completely deaf w/o CIs, fairly good hearing with them) and she never really got back to me. It seemed more trouble than it was worth just for a permit, so my permit has nothing about my hearing loss. However, when it comes to my license, my mom wants there to be *some* way for a police officer to know that I may not hear him (or, if I got in an accident, and my CI's went flying..) What do you think? (sorry, comment got a little bit lengthy!)

ms toast burner said...

Interesting question, Sarah!

I just renewed my license a couple of years ago and they never inquired about hearing aids, just glasses.

But then, I'm "too young" to be HOH (haha).

I just searched on British Columbia's equivalent of the DMV and couldn't find anything. I might call Monday, just to ask and find out.

I think I prefer driving without my hearing aids... so I'll definitely keep this in mind next time I renew.

Do you, or anyone else reading this, find that your hearing affects your driving?

I personally haven't noticed a difference between HA on or 'au naturel' when I'm alone in the car. With a passenger or as a passenger, I can hear better with the HA. But I don't think it affects my ability to drive... I hope!

Anonymous said...

My license doesn't say I wear hearing aids. As far as I know, California doesn't have any hearing restrictions on non-commercial licenses.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi PinkLAM,
I would question your Driver's Ed instructor's understanding of communication issues. I think there's a spectrum beyond no hearing and no speech. But that's my personal opinion.
I do know of a resource that you may want for your car - it's a placard that you keep on the visor. It says that you are hard of hearing and offers tips for communication. You keep it up on the visor so no one sees it until you need it. If you have a police officer approach you, you flip it down so he/she can read it. It's considered safer than reaching for it in the car. This link lets you print one for free. It also has a card for deaf drivers.

There are also sources on the internet where you can purchase a visor card already laminated.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Ms. Toast Burner,
My experience is the same as yours, the hearing aids help with communication with passengers but not necessarily with driving. Actually wearing hearing aids, I get annoyed by the sound my jangling keys make which I don't notice when I don't have them in, ha ha.
Thanks for your comment,

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for your comment. I was wondering if this varied from state to state. The last time I got my driver's license I didn't know I was hard of hearing so it wasn't even on my radar screen so to speak.

(e said...

This is new to me. As far as I know, my state does not have this.

Thanks for your informative post. Very interesting.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah:

in Kentucky, there is a restriction if you have hearing loss. It is noted only as a number on your driver's license (the police know what the numbers mean) and you are required to drive a vehicle with two side mirrors (one on each side). That's the only restriction we have. When I lived in Iowa, I was require to have "Deaf Driver" labeled in bold on my license and highlighted in yellow. At the time, I didn't like that, but understood how it could help the police and emergency personnel. The KCDHH has paired up with the state and local police here, and have cards you can keep in your vehicle in the event you are pulled over, etc. Each card at the top says I am and Oral Deaf person" or "I am a hard of hearing person", etc. ( you can specify what you want on it) and it goes on to give the officer tips for communicating, has pictures on it that allow the officer to point out why he/she pulled you, if they need to see your license, etc. Very user-friendly and I keep one with me at all times, because I can speak so well, sometimes officers do not believe I am truly completely deaf.

Eddie (Thumpaflash)

sara said...

I've now had drivers licenses in three states... NY had the two side mirrors requirement. NJ would give me a deaf designation only with a doctor's note so I didn't bother and never found out what it actually looked like. Virginia where I am now, I honestly can't recall ... I don't think there was anything special. The DMV here has the same screens and numbers that you do Sarah. It's nice.

Danielle said...

Sarah- YES... IN NY you must say if you are deaf or hard of hearing. I just got my ID CARD and they asked me IF I WAS DEAF. I had to check that off. When i had my Permit back then It said I was hard of hearing IT WILL SAY CLASS D on the back of the lisence meaning if you get pulled over and the cop will know that you are deaf. I always had a CLASS D on my permit, license and ID CARD.

yes you should start wearing your aids in the car just in case god forbid something happens or in case an ambulance is coming by and you "maynot HEAR them to pull over".

You could also get a visor card for your CAR! I will email you the link.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi (e,
Thanks for your comment.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thank you Eddie for your informative comment. Today I printed out a visor card for myself from the link posted above and have put it in my card. I'm glad to know it's proven useful to you to have one.
All the best,

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Sara,
I'm glad Virginia has the same signage that my DMV had. There's so many situations that aren't deaf/HOH friendly that when you find one, it's worth highlighting,
All the best,

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Danielle,
I think you're right. I should wear my hearing aids when driving. Lately I've been getting better about wearing them on a daily basis all through my day.
Thanks for offering to send me the link. Actually I printed out a visor card from the link posted in my response to PinkLAM today.
It's always good to hear from you, Danielle. Take care, Sarah

Steve said...

Hi Sarah,

I think it'll be nice when we reach a certain and and we're finally "old enough" to wear hearing aids!

I don't think there's any mention of HAs on the UK driving license but, to be honest, it's a long time since I've looked at mine - I've been driving for 17 years and the renew process was automatic. I'll have to dig my license out sometime and have a look.

Anonymous said...

I think one should always wear ones appliances when driving! If only to prevent any potential problems if an insurer or other driver discovers that you have HAs/CIs and weren't wearing them. It just gives them a stick to beat you with. If you are Deaf, or never wear them then there is no difference in your hearing ability with and without. I reckon that I usually see the traffic changes before a hearing person hears and responds to sirens etc. I would never hear a car horn without my gadgets so that makes it important to wear them

When I had HA only I made it a rule never to chat to passengers when I was driving. To much concentration is required and that takes away from concentrating on the road. Similarly when I was a passenger I would be scared when the driver would turn to speak to me so I could read their lips. Kind of them to think of it but eyes on the road please! Actually I think there should be less chatting in cars and more reading the road for hearing people too.

I don't think I was asked about my hearing when I got either my Ontario License or my British one.

I have a medicalert necklace that states that I am deaf and a CI user. I'm also thinking of putting a notice in the car too. I think all HOH and deaf people should have MediAlerts. It's important for emergency services to know why you aren't responsive

Phew, an unedited ramble!

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Ha ha, Steve. We should toast that when that day comes. Actually how old is old enough for hearing aids????

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Mog,
Consider me chastened. I have written out "I will wear my hearing aids when driving" 100 times JK.
I never thought about the MediAlert necklace before.
Has anyone else gotten one of these?

jelly said...

In NJ there is not a spot on the drivers license to show if you wear a hearing aid or not.

Sometimes, I wonder if it should?

Kim said...

My license says I need corrective lenses, but says nothing about hearing aids.

I have to agree with MOG that maybe the best reason for wearing your hearing aids while driving is for your personal protection against someone assuming you were at fault in an accident (if you weren't wearing your aids) I usually wear mine while driving, but I don't honestly think hearing matters all that much. Sometimes I take them off at the end of the day when my ears are tired of being plugged, but I usually wear them.

Jonathan said...

My Ontario driver's license doesn't say that I must wear my hearing aids, but it does stipulate that I must use my glasses.

However, because I typically wear my hearing aids on all day long, I wear them while I drive.

Do I always hear horns? I don't know. I don't get them that often!

Do I always hear sirens? To be honest, I tend to see them before I hear them. Maybe it's because I live in a neighbourhood that's probably within the no-sirens zone because I live just a dozen homes away from the hospital and there are a hospital, a police station, and a fire hall all within 8 blocks or so.

It does freak me out a bit when I hear them, but cannot see the flashing lights. I think my freaking out is a bit related to my slightly weak localization skills.

I will ask other people at work to see if their driver license says anything about having to have their hearing aids on or having a D or HH label on it.

MOG - a medic alert bracelet or necklace to indicate one's hearing loss. Huh! Haven't heard or thought of that one before. Do you have one?

sara said...

The medic alert (or similar) bracelet is especially recommended for those with cochlear implants because we can not have an MRI.

I haven't gotten one yet, but I do have my phone's screen wallpaper set up with an emergency contact number and a note that I am deaf. No guarantee it will be found if an emergency, but doesn't hurt.

Anonymous said...

I admit it...I lied on my NY license application, because my loss is mild/moderate and I did not want to be obligated to wear them every time I drove. One on one I have no problems. Maybe next renewal time I will check for hearing aids, but not yet.