Why can’t I hear well in the car?

When people find out I’m an audiologist, they’ll often ask me some version of the following: ”I can’t hear the kids/grandkids in the backseat when we’re in the car. They’re trying to tell me about their day or ask me questions, but all I can do is nod and smile. Is there anything I can do to hear better in the car?”

Hearing in the car is a very challenging listening environment. Speech-to-noise signals are less than optimal for speech understanding. Road noise such as the rumbling of the car, the tires on the pavement, plus the heat or A/C system can all add noise and make it hard to distinguish voices. We tend to have our own strategies to deal with all the noise, but sometimes they fail.

So what can you do to hear better in the car?

First off, I recommend trying to minimize background noise:

  • Keep windows closed
  • Turn the radio down or off
  • Avoid competing conversations at the same time

If that doesn’t help, then a hearing test is recommended. Difficulty hearing in noise is a common sign of hearing loss and a hearing test can help determine if that is the cause of your struggles hearing in the car.

If a hearing loss is found, there are many solutions to help, including hearing aids, of course. Hearing aids are designed to improve speech recognition and/or listening effort in noisy conditions where talkers are located behind or beside the listener. Hearing aids provide a clearer speech signal and help reduce ambient noise in relation to speech. This makes it easier to hear others in the car — and all the other places where you’re having trouble hearing.

Starkey’s Livio AI hearing aids even have a special Car Mode that senses when you’re traveling over 10 mph and automatically adjusts your hearing aids to adapt to the sounds of driving. Accessories such as our Remote Microphone +, can help, too, as your kids or companion can speak into it and have their voices stream directly to your Livio hearing aids.

So that’s the answer I give inquiring minds — usually followed up by, “Now that you know how to hear your kids better in the car, do you want to know an easy way to tune them out too?” Then I explain the mute function on the Livios :)

To get a hearing test, you can either take our free online hearing test or find a local hearing professional who can test you. To find a local hearing professional, simply type your zip code in here. That same hearing professional can also show you our Livio AI hearing aids live and in person.


Join our community of Starkey Blog subscribers

Want a week's worth of Starkey blogs delivered to your inbox every Friday? Sign up here.


By Starkey Hearing