The whisper test is a standard hearing test that is performed by Medical Examiners on truck drivers as part of their CDL (Commercial Driver's License) physical. The test is used to assess the driver's ability to hear and understand spoken words in a noisy environment, such as a truck cab.
The first recorded use of the whisper test in medicine was by Dr. Frederick Barber in 1897. He described the test in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, where he used the test to detect early signs of hearing loss in workers exposed to noise in factories and mines.
In the early 1900s, the whisper test was widely adopted as a screening tool for hearing loss in schools and other community settings. It was a simple and inexpensive test that could be performed by non-medical personnel, such as teachers and nurses.
Over time, the whisper test has been refined and modified to improve its accuracy and reliability. Different sets of words and numbers have been used, and the test has been standardized to ensure consistent results across different examiners and settings.
As part of a CDL exam, a certified Medical Examiner will perform a thorough physical exam to assess the driver's overall health and physical fitness to operate a commercial vehicle and do so per FMCSA regulations. One of the items that the Medical Examiner will cover during this exam is the whisper test.
For the whispered voice test, the driver should be stationed at least 5 feet from the Medical Examiner with the ear being tested turned toward the Medical Examiner. The other ear is covered. Using the breath that remains after a normal expiration, the Medical Examiner whispers words or random numbers such as 66, 18, 3, etc. The Medical Examiner should then ask the driver to repeat the words or sequence. The Medical Examiner should not use only sibilants (“s” sounding materials). The opposite ear should be tested in the same manner. If the driver fails the whispered voice test in both ears, an audiometric test should be administered.
It's important for truck drivers to pass the whisper test and meet all other physical requirements in order to obtain and maintain their CDL. This helps to ensure that they are physically capable of operating a commercial vehicle safely and responsibly on the road.
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