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Driving with Hearing Loss - Can hearing loss affect my ability to drive?

Kimberley Bradshaw - Head of Marketing
Written By:
Kimberley Bradshaw

Head of Customer Content Experience

David - Audiologist for Hearing Aid UK
Medically Reviewed By:
David

Audiology Expert at Hearing Aid UK

Updated: 3rd March 2024
Driving with Hearing Loss

Driving with Hearing Loss

Can you drive with hearing loss?

 

People see hearing loss as the end of driving and loss of independence

One of the main reasons for putting off getting a diagnosis of hearing loss is the fear that it may affect the ability to drive. The loss of independence can be one of the largest factors in delaying treatment.  However, if you are hard of hearing there is no need to put off getting the help you need.

Whether you are a new learner facing lessons whilst dealing with hearing loss or an experienced driver facing a new diagnosis - driving with hearing loss can be challenging, but it's not impossible.

With the right precautions and adaptations, drivers with hearing loss can safely navigate the roads.  In this article, we talk about how you can drive safely with hearing loss without impacting your ability to get around.

 

How will hearing loss affect my ability to drive?

Is it safe to drive with hearing loss?  Hearing loss affects millions of people worldwide and it can make it difficult to hear important sounds while driving such as sirens, horns, and warning signals. However, this doesn't mean that drivers with hearing loss should give up driving altogether. 

Many worry that the loss of hearing may impact their ability to drive safely but it has been found the opposite is in fact true. There have been studies conducted that often show drivers with hearing loss are more vigilant than their hearing counterparts.

This is because noisy passengers, phones or music distract them less and they tend to be more attuned to visual observations such as hazards, flashing lights and emergency signals.

 

Wearing hearing aids whilst driving

The most important step for drivers with hearing loss is to wear hearing aids or cochlear implants. Hearing aids can help amplify sounds and improve speech understanding, while cochlear implants can directly stimulate the auditory nerve to provide clearer sound signals.

Before getting behind the wheel, drivers with hearing loss should make sure their hearing aids or cochlear implants are working properly and that they are set to the appropriate volume levels.

 

What are the UK regulations for driving with hearing loss?

Should I inform the DVLA of my hearing loss?  For most people driving for domestic journeys, there is no need to worry as the answer is no. There is no need to inform the DVLA of a hearing loss diagnosis for a car or motorcycle license.

Should I inform the DVLA of my hearing loss if I drive for work?  On the other hand, for a bus, coach or lorry license, it is important to inform the DVLA if you are deaf. It is unlikely to affect your ability to drive but if the driver is involved in an accident without having done so, it can lead to fines and prosecution.

The short, easy-to-complete AUD1 form is accessible on the YouGov website. Once completed they may request further information from your hearing healthcare adviser or doctor so make sure you are in touch with them too.

 

How will hearing loss affect my driving lessons and tests?

Can I learn to drive with hearing loss?  Yes, you can still apply for your provisional license as normal and special provisions are available for the tests such as:

  • Theory Test:  For the multiple-choice theory test you can have an onscreen BSL interpreter, have a lip reader during the test and/or use a listening aid hearing loop.
  • Practical Test:  You need to inform the DVSA of hearing requirements in the practical test so the examiner is aware and can make accommodations.

 

If you have severe hearing loss some driving schools are specialised with instructors fluent in BSL - finding a ‘deaf aware’ instructor will help immensely and make you feel more confident in training and exam conditions.

If you rely on lipreading it is still possible to learn to drive this way, your instructor may also get you to stop when they need to explain something to you so that you can lipread or look at written instructions.

As you can see there are plenty of accommodations to ensure you succeed and pass each section of your driving test with ease. If you’re feeling unsure about any of these aspects or with just the examiner in the car in the practical test it is possible to take your driving instructor with you (just make sure you arrange that with them in advance!)

 

Driving with Hearing Loss

Driving with Hearing Loss

Is it safe to drive without wearing my hearing aids?

 

Should I wear my hearing aids whilst driving?

You aren’t obliged to wear your hearing aids when driving, some people prefer not to out of personal choice, but it can be helpful for hearing oncoming sirens and horns. Also, it is helpful to notice any differences in your engine sounds, often a strange noise will be the first sign of any problems arising.

Additionally, easily keeping a check on your revs without watching the dashboard can ensure greater fuel efficiency.

 

What assistance is there for drivers who are hard of hearing?

What happens if I break down and need help?   Perhaps you are worried about breaking down and not being able to get the help you need but breakdown cover companies offer accessible options for everyone.

For example, the RAC offers text facilities for the hard of hearing. Use the telephone prefix 18001 to access Typetalk or you can text them on 07855 828282, a handy number to have stored in your phone for emergencies.

Alternatively, the AA provides a number to inform them of specific help requirements in the event of a breakdown or they can use the Relay app. So, there is no need not to drive for the fear of breaking down and getting the assistance you need, the breakdown companies have got your needs covered.

 

Will my car insurance be more expensive after a hearing loss diagnosis?

Will a hearing loss diagnosis affect my car insurance?  What your insurance covers will depend on your independent policy and each company is different. As there is no need to declare hearing loss to the DVLA for domestic driving, it is not considered detrimental to your driving.

However, if you do need to declare your hearing loss to your insurance company if it is included in their application for example, it is important to note it is illegal to charge drivers more for insurance under the Equalities Act and your cost should not be impacted.

 

Driving with Hearing Loss

Driving with Hearing Loss

Precautions and adaptations for safe driving

 

Tips on ensuring yours and everyone else's safety on the road

Hearing loss can affect your ability to drive safely, so it's important to take the necessary precautions to reduce any potential risks on the road.  Here are some tips for driving with hearing loss:

 

  • Use hearing aids or cochlear implants: If you have hearing loss, hearing aids or cochlear implants support and help you hear important sounds while driving, such as sirens, horns and warning signals. Make sure your hearing aids or cochlear implants are working properly and have plenty of power before you drive.
  • Keep your car quiet: Turn off the radio, lower the air conditioning or heating fan and close the windows to reduce the background noise in your car. This will help you hear important sounds outside your car.
  • Check your mirrors often: Use your side and rear-view mirrors frequently to be aware of your surroundings. This is especially important when changing lanes, merging or turning.
  • Be extra cautious at intersections: Look both ways several times before proceeding through an intersection. Listen for any sounds that may signal oncoming traffic or pedestrians.
  • Use visual cues: Pay attention to visual cues, such as brake lights, turn signals and pedestrians crossing the street.
  • Inform your passengers: Let your passengers know about your hearing loss, ask them to be patient and extra alert for any sounds you may have missed.
  • Consider taking a driving course: Consider taking a driving course specifically designed for drivers with hearing loss. This can help you learn additional strategies for safe driving.
  • Keep an eye on your speed:  Hearing loss can affect a driver's ability to react to emergency situations or hear warning signals. Drivers with hearing loss should take extra precautions when driving, such as increasing their following distance and reducing their speed to allow for more reaction time.
  • Look into assistive technology:  Some more modern cars come equipped with backup cameras and sensors that provide visual and auditory signals when an obstacle is detected. GPS systems also provide visual and auditory directions to help drivers navigate the roads.

 

In conclusion

Driving with hearing loss can be challenging, but it's not impossible. Drivers with hearing loss should take the necessary precautions to reduce any potential risks on the road. By using hearing aids or cochlear implants, keeping their car quiet, being extra cautious at intersections, using visual cues, informing their passengers or taking driving courses - they can safely navigate the roads and enjoy the freedom and independence that comes with driving.

 

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Driving with Hearing Loss

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Read Next:

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This article was written by audiology expert Paul Harrison

Meet Paul Harrison, Audiology Expert & Founder

Managing Director & founder of Hearing Aid UK, with over 20 years of audiology experience and a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists Council (BSHAA) between 2015-2020.

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Common FAQs about hearing aids and hearing loss

Is this the best model for me?

If you are looking at this page then it is likely that an audiologist has suggested that you purchase this particular hearing aid, so is this the best model for you?

In general, any audiologist will always be recommending to you the model that best suits your needs. Here is a useful check list to make sure that is the case.

  • Audiologist level of knowledge. The audiologist you have seen will hopefully have a wide knowledge of all available hearing aids, however some will only be familiar with a small number of brands and therefore may not really be in a position to know which model is the best for you. It is OK to challenge their recommendation and ask them to justify why this particular brand is the one for you.
  • Do research. Read about the hearing aid that was recommended. Does it seem like it will suit your lifestyle? Does it have more or less features than you need? 
  • Be aware of sales targets. Many high street retailers have specific tie-ins to a particular manufacturer/brand. The hearing aid they have suggested may still be the correct one for you, but do your research so that you know why they might have recommended it.

If in doubt, feel free to give us a call. That's what we're here for.

Do I need one hearing aid or two?

If you have a significant hearing loss in both ears, you should be wearing two hearing aids. Here are the audiological reasons why:

Localisation. The brain decodes information from both ears and compares and contrasts them. By analysing the miniscule time delays as well as the difference in loudness of each sound reaching the ears, the person is able to accurately locate a sound source. Simply put, if you have better hearing on one side than the other, you can't accurately tell what direction sounds are coming from.

Less amplification required. A phenomena known as “binaural summation” means that the hearing aids can be set at a lower and more natural volume setting than than if you wore only one hearing aid.

Head shadow effect. High frequencies, the part of your hearing that gives clarity and meaning to speech sounds, cannot bend around your head. Only low frequencies can. Therefore if someone is talking on your unaided side you are likely to hear that they are speaking, but be unable to tell what they have said.

Noise reduction. The brain has it’s own built in noise reduction which is only really effective when it is receiving information from both ears. If only one ear is aided, even with the best hearing aid in the world, it will be difficult for you to hear in background noise as your brain is trying to retain all of the sounds (including background noise) rather than filtering it out.

Sound quality. We are designed to hear in stereo. Only hearing from one side sounds a lot less natural to us.

What are the benefits of rechargeable hearing aids?

For most people, the main benefit of a rechargeable hearing aid is simple convenience. We are used to plugging in our phones and other devices overnight for them to charge up. 

For anybody with poor dexterity or issues with their fingers, having a rechargeable aid makes a huge difference as normal hearing aid batteries are quite small and some people find them fiddly to change.

One downside is that if you forget to charge your hearing aid, then it is a problem that can't be instantly fixed. For most a 30 minute charge will get you at least two or three hours of hearing, but if you are the type of person who is likely to forget to plug them in regularly then you're probably better off with standard batteries.

Rechargeable aids are also a little bit bigger and are only available in behind the ear models.

Finally, just like with a mobile phone, the amount of charge you get on day one is not going to be the same as you get a few years down the line. Be sure to ask what the policy is with the manufacturer warranty when it comes to replacing the battery.

 

Are behind the ear aids better than in the ear aids?

For most people, the answer is yes. But it's never that simple.

The majority of hearing problems affect the high frequencies a lot more than the low ones. Therefore open fitting hearing aids sound a lot more natural and ones that block your ears up can make your own voice sound like you are talking with your head in a bucket. Therefore in-ear aids tend to be less natural.

However the true answer is we can't tell until we have had a look in your ears to assess the size of your ear canal, and until we have tested your hearing to see which frequencies are being affected.

People with wider ear canals tend to have more flexibility, also there are open fitting modular CIC hearing aids now that do not block your ears.

There is also the age old rule to consider, that a hearing aid will not help you if it's sat in the drawer gathering dust. If the only hearing aid you would be happy wearing is one that people can't see, then that's what you should get.

Most people can adapt to any type of hearing aid, as long as they know what to expect. Have an honest conversation with your audiologist as to what your needs are.

What are channels, and how many do I need?

Generally speaking, six or more. Unless it's none at all.

The number of channels a hearing aid has is often a simplistic way an audiologist will use to explain why one hearing aid is better than another, but channels are complex and it is really not that straightforward.

Hearing aids amplify sounds of different frequencies by different amounts. Most people have lost more high frequencies than low and therefore need more amplification in the high frequencies. The range of sounds you hear are split into frequency bands or channels and the hearing aids are set to provide the right amount of hearing at each frequency level.

Less than six channels and this cannot be done with much accuracy, so six is the magic number. However, a six channel aid is typically very basic with few other features and is suitable only for hearing a single speaker in a quiet room. The number of channels is not what you should be looking at, it's more the rest of the technology that comes with them.

As a final note, different manufacturers have different approaches. One method is not necessarily better than any other. For example some manufacturers have as many as 64 channels in their top aids. Most tend to have between 17 and 20. One manufacturer has no channels at all.

Where can I get the hearing aids covered?

Hearing aids are easily lost, misplaced or damaged and typically are one of the most expensive personal possessions an individual can own. We offer hearing aid warranty cover for £80 per year per aid.  Find out more here

How much does the hearing test cost?

All our audiologists use the very latest technology and provide the full range of tests to accurately measure your hearing for free.  Find out about what we offer all our customers here

Do home visits cost extra?

Hearing Aid UK offers all their customers free home visiting services and home visits for hearing aids - Including hearing tests, fittings, maintenance, check-ups and much more in the comfort of your own home and at your convenience.  Find out more information here

How come you're much cheaper than other places?

Here, at Hearing Aid UK, we are dedicated to offering low hearing aid prices. We achieve this by having no head office and low marketing costs.   Our hearing aid prices are amongst the lowest you will find anywhere in the world.

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