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Driving with a hearing impairment

Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults. Nearly 9 million adults in the UK suffer from some form of hearing difficulty from total deafness to slightly hard of hearing. Over a third of those affected are yet to seek help.   Hearing loss tends to creep up on you, rarely is it sudden, although sadly it does happen. More often it is a slow and gradual loss and this can be difficult to recognise, especially if you are over 50 years old.

Look for the warning signs:

  • Television or Radio up very loud.
  • Strain to hear family and friends.
  • Miss the odd word in conversation.
  • Certain sounds appear muted or dull.
  • Can't hear car hooting.

    1 in 4 people over 50 have a hearing loss. It is important to heed the signs and get help as soon as you can. The longer you leave getting a hearing aid the more likely your hearing loss will increase. Your hearing nerve needs to be kept stimulated to maintain hearing health.


    Due to lack of research data in this area, the effect of impaired hearing on the ability to drive safely is still untested. The best available information suggests that totally deaf drivers may have a slightly increased risk of an accident. Most deaf drivers have rejected this theory and say that because of their hearing loss their other senses, especially eyesight and vibration sensory are heightened to such a degree that they make up for any loss of hearing.

    To validate their belief, deaf people point to lorry drivers who have normal hearing but often have great difficulty detecting any outside warning sounds because of the noise of the engine and the sound proofing modern lorry cabs have today. This has led some experts in this field to conclude that total deafness presents no safety hazard when driving.

    It is however accepted that drivers who suffer slight or medium hearing loss and have not sought help such as a hearing aid, do present a hazard to themselves and other road users.  Unlike total deafness, hard of hearing drivers without the help of a hearing aid are unlikely to be able to apply 100% concentration to the task of driving.

    Highway Code

    The Driving Standards Agency has launched a pack to help British Sign Language (BSL) users to learn the Highway Code. The official DSA DVD and book provides the contents of The Highway Code in BSL for the first time. Two DVDs contain all the rules for road users as well as full explanations of signs for warnings, directions, information and roadwork's. The pack also includes a reference copy of The Official Highway Code. 

    For further help and advice check out THe British Deaf Association at www.bda.org.uk

    Driving with a hearing impairment - Safety Advice for older drivers.

    Driving with a hearing impairment. Tips and advice - Article No 17- RoadDriver 2010

    For more information and a printable version to pass on to friends and family, click the link below.

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