The Impact of Hearing Impairment on Cognitive Workload, Situational Awareness, and Driving Behavior

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The Ohio State University

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The impact of hearing impairment on situational awareness, cognitive workload, and driving behavior is not well understood. Lack of knowledge about these interactions may negatively affect the safety of all drivers, as distractions become more prevalent. The few previous studies related to hearing impairment and driving have included primarily elderly individuals, confounding whether driving behavior issues are due to aging, hearing impairment, or an interaction of these factors. The present study attempted to separate these variables. Eighteen participants (12 younger (18-35 years old) normal hearing, 4 older (55-75 years old) normal hearing, 2 younger hearing impaired, no older hearing impaired) were asked to drive a simulated course in a 6-degree-of-freedom motion base driving simulator while performing concurrent listening and situational awareness distractor tasks. The situational awareness task consisted of identifying an object (4x4x4 meter red/white checkerboard cube) randomly located in the scenario. The listening task required individuals to repeat the last word for each of 50 high-predictability and 50 low-predictability sentences, presented in controlled background noise. The study also compared performance in mechanics of driving (speed and lane keeping) across groups. Testing is currently in progress, but preliminary results suggest that situational awareness in object identification is decreased in all groups while performing the simultaneous listening task, and that older normal-hearing individuals performed more poorly on the listening task than younger normal-hearing participants. Results are discussed in terms of how to best design in-vehicle systems to assist elderly and hearing-impaired drivers.


Third Place in 2017 Denman Undergraduate Research Forum


driving, hearing, cognitive workload, situational awareness