Driving while deaf is allowed but it is advisable to be aware of the limitations and additional challenges that driving without being able to hear the environment around you can bring. Drivers who have partial deafness may find it easier to compensate over time or can use hearing aids to boost the volume of ambient sounds.
Drivers who are deaf often develop other methods of observation such as better awareness of their peripheral vision or increased sensitivity to vibration. There are modifications that can be made such as using better mirrors that cover more of the blind spots. Overall, there is no significant difference in the ability of deaf people to drive over non-deaf people as long as the challenges are taken into consideration.
The challenges of driving while deaf
Emergency services vehicles – your only clue to the presence of emergency services vehicles will be flashing lights in your rear-view mirror. When driving while deaf, you will need to check your mirrors much more frequently. There are aids that can be used to warn drivers of emergency service vehicles.
Vehicle defects – you won’t be able to hear if your vehicle sounds odd, e.g. unusual rattles or a squealing fan belt. It may help to service your vehicle more frequently or rely on friends or relatives to check. Driving an automatic vehicle where you don’t need to hear the pitch of the engine to change gear will be easier. NB: It’s not impossible to drive a manual vehicle while deaf as the rev counter will show when to change up or down, too.
Other road users – road users using their horn to warn you or motorbikes approaching while filtering will not be readily apparent.
Road conditions – when driving on black ice, the tyres can make noticeably less noise. The steering wheel will feel different, too, so you will need to rely on that.
Audible aids within the vehicle – reversing sensors that only have audible warnings will be no use, for example.
Benefits of driving while deaf
Deaf drivers are never distracted by listening to loud music or talking on a cellphone. Deaf drivers often have other senses that are acuter, are aware of their difficulties and drive according to their abilities.
Taking your driving test while deaf
When you book your driving test, let the booking agent know that you are deaf. On the day, the examiner will communicate with you using whatever means works best for you. You will be given written notes initially. They can look at you directly so that you can lip read what they are saying more clearly. Hand signals will be used to give directions and you will have these explained to you before the test on written cards.
There’s a pack available from GOV.UK to help.
Fines and consequences
You can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving. You may be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result and your insurance policy may be invalidated. You should tell your insurance company about your deafness.
Car or motorcycle licence
You don’t need to tell DVLA if you’re deaf.
Bus, coach or lorry licence
You must tell DVLA if you’re deaf.
Fill in form AUD1 and send it to them; the address is on the form.