Do I Need a Hearing Test Medical to Drive in the UK?

Driving offers freedom and flexibility, but with it comes responsibility. For many, hearing is a crucial sense that assists in this responsibility. But what about those with hearing impairments or those who are deaf? Is a hearing test medical a prerequisite to get behind the wheel in the UK?

Do I Need a Hearing Test Medical to Drive in the UK?

Hearing ability can be affected at any age, but most commonly it is known that auditory organs or hearing ability deteriorate as you grow old. Does hearing inability impact your fitness to drive a vehicle? Not really. However, if you notice any change in your ability to hear, it is likely that your auditory organ has deteriorated and you may need hearing aids to assist your hearing ability. 

In the UK, deaf people are allowed to drive, and there’s no legal requirement to inform DVLA unless the hearing impairment has been caused due to a medical condition that affects both hearing and balance. Deaf people drive without any restrictions. However, those with hearing aids or using British Sign Language (BSL) may benefit from a driving instructor well-versed in these.

Wear Hearing Aids

Can people with hearing disabilities drive?

Be it hearing disability or any other medical conditions that could affect your ability to drive, it is important to let the driver and vehicle licensing agency (DVLA) know about it. Hearing loss affects so many people. There is no restriction for a deaf person to drive. However, they are required to learn to drive and pass the test.

Regardless of what quite a lot of people assume, research shows that deaf have hardly been involved in any traffic accidents than those who have no hearing inability. Deaf or people with a hearing disability are more likely to be safe drivers as they use their other sensory organs to ensure they are wary on the road for the safety of themselves and others. 

If you have a car or motorcycle licence you don’t need to inform DVLA if you are deaf. However, to drive a bus, coach or lorry you do need to inform DVLA. Drivers who are deaf often develop other methods of observation such as better awareness of their peripheral vision or increased sensitivity to vibration. Drivers who have partial deafness may find it easier to compensate overtime or can use hearing aids to boost the volume of ambient sounds. 


deaf drivers

What are the tests carried out for hearing loss?

There are a number of causes that could affect a person’s hearing ability. More often than not, hearing disability is commonly seen in older people. If a person suspects hearing loss, it is vital to seek medical attention from auditory healthcare professional like an audiologist or auditory instrument specialist. 

Tests are generally simple and pain-free. The test includes a questionnaire about the difficulties you are facing, your lifestyle, your family history and your communication requirements. 


The Theory Test

The theory test comprises multiple-choice questions displayed on a computer screen, followed by video clips to identify hazards. For deaf candidates or those with hearing loss, there are accessible options:

  • Written Notes: BSL users can get the test in a form where questions and answers are presented in sign language on the screen.
  • Lip Speaker: For those who lip read, a lip speaker can assist without any extra cost.
  • Hearing Loop or Listening Aid: If you use a hearing aid, ensure it’s set to the ‘T’ setting to tap into the loop system during the test.

The Practical Driving Test

For the practical driving test, hearing impaired drivers can:

  • Use Written Notes: Driving instructors use simple direction signs to guide the driver.
  • Rely on Visual Clues: Instructors may use visual clues, allowing the hearing impaired driver to follow directions without needing to hear verbal instructions.
  • Lip Read: If the driver can lip read, they can mention it to the instructor before the test begins. In case of emergency vehicles, instructors often use visual clues to alert hearing impaired drivers. While the standard test remains the same for all, these additional provisions ensure that hearing impaired candidates can take their tests without undue stress.

What does the hearing test procedure include? 

Most tests include using a lighted instrument called an otoscope to conduct a visual test of your eardrum and ear canal by the audiologist. This enables your doctor to determine the physical cause that is contributing to your disability to hear.

Furthermore, a sound-treated chamber and headphones will also be used in a pure tone audiometry test, where you will be asked to wear the headphones and listen to different tones and determine the softest tones upon pressing the buttons. This procedure helps the audiologist determine the degree of hearing loss and also identify the frequencies that are most impacted.

The test might further include speech tests where you will be asked to listen to words and repeat the same. This enables the doctor to determine your ability to hear the softest speech frequency and how well you perceive the speech.

Driving Safely with Hearing Impairments

While deaf or hearing impaired people can drive safely, they often rely more on visual observations:

  • Regularly Check Mirrors: This helps identify hazards, such as emergency vehicles or other cars, quickly.
  • Vibrations: Feeling the rhythm of the car and steering wheel can provide feedback on the car’s movement and surrounding activities.
  • Drive During Daylight: This can be especially helpful for those heavily relying on visual cues.

In Case of Progressive Hearing Loss

If a person starts experiencing hearing loss after obtaining their driving license, it’s not mandatory to inform the DVLA unless associated with a medical condition affecting both hearing and balance. However, it might be beneficial to take refresher driving lessons to adapt to the new sensory dynamics.

When to inform the DVLA of hearing loss?

The DVLA allows deaf people to drive. There are no limitations to drive a car or motorcycle if you have a licence. However, if you are seeking a licence to drive a bus, lorry or coach, it is vital that you inform the DVLA regarding the disability. If you fail to inform and drive without approval, you could end up paying a fine of up to £1000 and also cause road accidents.

The procedure to inform the DVLA of your hearing disability includes filling an AUD1 form and sending it straight to the DVLA agency.

hearing impairment

How long does the hearing loss medical enquiry take?

The time taken by DVLA to enquire about your case depends on the severity of the hearing disability and the time taken to collect information regarding your health condition. Be that as it may, the DVLA aims to complete the enquiries at the earliest. 

If the information originally provided by you is accurate, the DVLA can make a decision within a span of three to four weeks.

If the information provided either by you or your doctor is not sufficient, or if you are applying for a licence to drive a bus or a lorry, the decision may take longer than expected. Upon gathering required documents, if the medical advisor is content about the medical information and your fitness to drive, a decision about your driving licence will be taken.

Below listed are the possible decisions taken by the DVLA:

  • Your existing licence might be retained or you might be issued with a new driver’s licence
  • You might be issued with a driver’s licence for a span of a year, two or three if the medical advisor asks for a review of your medical fitness in the coming years
  • Your issued driver’s licence might indicate that special controls are required to be installed to the vehicle you drive in order to achieve problem-free driving
  • If the required fitness to drive does not meet the medical standards, your licence might be cancelled or your application might get rejected. However, if your driver’s licence is cancelled, or your application is rejected, you will still have the right to appeal the decision.
transportation truck on the road

How do deaf people or people with hearing disabilities drive?

With advancements in technology, deaf people are bestowed with a number of ways to ensure safe driving. For instance, a number of devices are introduced to alert deaf drivers in case if an emergency vehicle is passing by. This helps the driver to safely pull over.

To ensure deaf drivers have a panoramic view of the vehicles around, clip-on mirrors enhance the visual perception and also the view of objects around their own vehicle.

In recent times, built-in assistants are being introduced in the cars to alert the person with a hearing disability in case if emergency vehicles approach. Some of these advanced devices include sensory cues extracted from sensory input or haptic technology that vibrates the user seat or steering wheel.

An organ disability cannot limit one’s opportunities in everyday life.

Come visit Barnetby Private Medicals to get your medical fitness certificate for hearing disabilities.