This question was recently posed by a prospective driver on one of the trucking forums, wondering if he should even apply to truck driving school:

“I have been seeing a lot of different feedback online and i wanted to get input from the pros on here…
My question is, during the DOT physical exam, they test your hearing…problem is, i have unilateral hearing, which means i am 100% deaf in my LEFT ear,m and have been since birth..but i have 100%hearing in my RIGHT ear…will i pass the DOT physical exam?

Any help is really appreciated! i need to know this before i get my hopes up of joining my CDL school.”

Well, he had several replies from experienced drivers, none of whom really knew the answer, even after supplying that part of the CFR.  It seems there is some confusion about the use of the term “in the better ear” and whether that means there is some hearing in the not-so-good ear.

Here was my answer:

“As Medical Director of NADME-the National Academy of DOT Medical Examiners, I can assure you with some authority that you only need one good ear to pass your commercial driver physical.

The comments given about how this portion of the exam is done are accurate, you must first perceive a forced whisper at 5 feet. If you can not hear the forced whisper, you will be tested in a hearing booth with an audiometer.

You must be able to hear at no greater than 40dB loss in the better ear. If your good ear is relatively normal hearing, you should have no problem passing this portion of the exam. If that’s your only medical condition you were worried about, go to CDL school! This country needs good, healthy, safe drivers!

Best of luck,

Lawrence Earl MD
Medical Director