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DOT Physicals: All About the Hearing Exam
Mariah Barr
8 mins read

If any of your drivers have hearing troubles, it's important to know the DOT physical hearing requirements to ensure they're able to continue operating commercial vehicles for your company.

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical impairment in the US, with high blood pressure and arthritis being the top two. That being said, it’s important to protect your hearing on the job and as a part of your everyday lifestyle – especially if you need to pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical to do your job.  

Any driver operating a large commercial vehicle (CMV) weighing over 10,000 lbs. must pass a DOT physical every two years to ensure they’re healthy enough to safely perform their job duties.

Whether you’re about to experience your first DOT physical or you think your hearing has deteriorated since your last one, we suggest familiarizing yourself with the DOT hearing requirements so you can feel confident about your ability to pass this portion of the exam and get your new medical card.  

You can read our DOT physical overview here, or read on to find out what the hearing test involves. 

What are the Hearing Requirements for the DOT Physical? 

You need to be able to hear a harsh whisper in your best ear, from no less than 5 feet away, with or without a hearing aid to pass the hearing exam. 

What Happens if I Fail the DOT Hearing Test?  

If you happen to fail the whisper test, the medical examiner will refer you to have an audiometry test. You must pass an audiometer test before you can receive a new medical certificate. In most cases, you’ll be able to get a hearing correction device and then pass your DOT physical. You’ll only fail the hearing test if you are completely deaf and cannot pass the whisper test even with hearing aids.  

What is an Audiometer Test and How Do I Pass it?  

If you’re tested by use of an audiometric device, the medical examiner will calibrate it to the American National Standard Z24.5-1951. You cannot have average hearing loss in your better-hearing ear greater than 40 decibels at 500Hz, 1000HZ, and 2,000 Hz with or without a hearing aid. 

You could be given any of the three following tests using an audiometer:  

  • Pure tone testing (audiogram) – While wearing a headset attached to the audiometer, you’ll hear tones set to specific frequencies and volumes in one ear at a time. You’ll then give the examiner a signal when you hear a sound, and they will record the minimum volume needed to hear each sound.  
  • Speech audiometry – You will need to listen to and repeat words spoken at different volumes through a headset.  
  • Immittance audiometry – The examiner will insert a probe into your ear and then pump air through it as tones are heard. This changes the pressure within the ear. A microphone will monitor how well sound is conducted within the ear under different pressures.  

Can I Pass the DOT Hearing Exam if I Use a Hearing Aid?

Yes, if you can pass the basic hearing test with or without using it. This does not place a restriction on your CDL, nor will you need an exemption.

Should I Wear My Hearing Aid(s) for the DOT Hearing Test?  

It’s best if you wear your hearing aids during the hearing test if you normally wear them on a daily basis. The Medical Examiner will make note that you use them, and you will then be required to wear them at all times while driving. You’ll also need to have a spare power source, such as the batteries for the hearing aids whenever you’re on the job. 

Can I Get an Exemption if I’m Deaf or I Fail the DOT Hearing Test?

If you fail the DOT physical hearing exam but pass all other portions of the exam, you can apply for a Federal Hearing Exemption. The medical examiner will still need to complete your physical so you can apply for the exemption.  

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), the DOT has offered a limited number of exemptions to safe drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing to operate Class B commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) without airbrakes. If you fall under this category, the NAD may be able to help you apply for an exemption. 

Should I Get a Hearing Test Before My DOT Physical?  

You don’t need to make any specific preparations for your hearing test; however, if you’re concerned your hearing has worsened since your last DOT physical, it may be worth your while to set up a hearing exam with your primary doctor in case you need hearing aids to pass the test, perform your job safely, and live a more comfortable life with better hearing. The last thing you want is to go to your physical appointment, find out you need a hearing aid or two, and then have to retake the physical again to pass. 

Don’t Stress About Your Hearing Test! 

The DOT physical hearing exam isn’t meant to be complicated, and if you haven’t experienced any problems with your hearing, you shouldn’t have any issues with passing the test. If you have any other questions or concerns about what you need to pass the physical, you can find all of our DOT physical articles here.   

Links to Related Articles in Our DOT Physicals Series: 

The DOT Physical: Everything You Need to Know  

DOT Physicals: Vision Requirements for the Eye Exam

DOT Physicals: Can Chiropractors and Other Doctors do DOT Physicals? 

DOT Physicals: Can You Pass with a High BMI or While Overweight?  

DOT Physicals: Can I Get a DOT Physical in Any State?  

DOT Physicals: Can You Pass with a Hernia?  

DOT Physicals: Will I Pass with Diabetes?  

DOT Physical Blood Pressure: Requirements & Tips for Passing  

DOT Physicals: Can I Pass With Sleep Apnea?  

DOT Physicals: What if I have a Medical Condition?  

DOT Physicals: Do They Include a Drug Test?  

How to Prepare for Your DOT Physical?  

DOT Physicals: What Happens When You Fail?  

Fail a DOT Physical? You Have a Right to a Second Opinion  

DOT Physicals: Understanding Medical Variances 



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